Pork Commentary

Jim Long, President-CEO Genesus Inc.

January 30, 2017

Iowa Pork Congress Report


Last week, we attended the Iowa Pork Congress, held annually in Des Moines, Iowa. Iowa is the largest hog producing state and has been for decades. The Iowa Pork Congress is the largest of all state trade shows and has many exhibitors. This year, it appears attendance was hampered by a major snowstorm that hit the northern part of Iowa.

Our Observations

  • Producers we talked to are relieved lean hog prices in the mid 60’s now. Hovering around breakeven is a lot better than losing $40 per head.
  • Heard that a major management company is trying to get producers to invest in a new packing plant.
  • Seems to be further discussion of significant PED and PRRS breaks.
  • Talked to some bankers, most producers not hedged when market was low. Lots of money lost in the last four months.
  • There are new sow barns being contemplated. We don’t see excessive expansion. Many can’t figure out where the 50,000 sows herd expansion in Illinois is that the December 1 USDA report indicated. Hard to get to 20,000 by most accounts.
  • Saw Dan Sutherland, a long-time friend and icon of the industry. Dan just retired from Johnsonville Sausage, where he had been head of procurement for many years. Dan has been a leader and very active in the National Pork Industry. We have always enjoyed talking to Dan, we debated many a subject. We agreed. We disagreed. We talked about the best direction for the pork industry. Our industry is better having Dan be a part of it. We wish Dan well as his life journey continues.
  • Gene Editing – Gene Altering. Topic relative to PIC’s target to remove gene from pigs, the goal for pigs to not get PRRS. The FDA might have just made this more complicated. On January 19, 2017, the US FDA (Federal Drug Administration) announced a Draft Guidance for regulation of Intentionally Altered Genomic DNA in Animals (Pigs). Bottom Line: if implemented, Gene Altered pigs will need FDA approval. It would go through an approval process similar to any drug. It just got a lot harder to execute. Google
    “FDA Gene Altered” to get details. This release was discussed with some packers at the Iowa Pork Congress. They are not sure if they, retailers, and/or foodservice will risk their brands with gene altered products. Consumer education could be complicated, and to put it bluntly, why would any retailer or foodservice company wish to open up this can of worms?
  • There are Genetically Altered Salmon for sale, but an article in Food Navigator-USA lists 59 retailers that will not sell gene altered salmon, representing 4,662 grocery stores across the country. Includes Target, Giant Eagle, Meijer, Trader Joe’s, Aldi, Whole Foods, Marsh, and Hy-Vee.
  • Slippery slope for our Pork Industry. We have pressure on housing for swine and antibiotic use. How the heck do we think Gene Altered Pork will fly in the face of consumer trends and now potential FDA approvals? We are worried PIC Gene Editing is exposing our industry to potential consumer backlash and consumption decline. How could such pork be segregated?
  • China won’t export paylean, how about gene altered? Exports 25% plus of our production. We need them. We worry about demand, it’s more important than removable PRRS. Some might accuse us of self-interest. Yes, they are right. Everything we own is in the pig industry. We cannot afford pork demand caving. Can you?


The world is always changing. New technology is a fact of life. The challenge is to implement technology that there is a market for. Gene Altered scares us not from a scientific view, but consumer acceptance. An issue as an industry we must be aware of. It’s our livelihood at stake.

Finally, we would like to thank all that came to our Genesus Reception at the Iowa Pork Congress. The staff at the Convention Centre was overwhelmed by our numbers and had to call in reinforcements. All in all, an enjoyable night and it was great to see so many people.


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This post was written by Genesus