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Deadly Pig Virus Driving Up Cost Of Pork At Restaurants, Supermarkets

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Deadly Pig Virus Driving Up Cost Of Pork At Restaurants, Supermarkets

CREATED May 7, 2014

by Jason Lamb

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – A new mystery virus has been wiping out millions of baby pigs nationwide and could prompt higher prices for pork at the supermarket or affect the price of barbecue at local restaurants.

Scientists don't know what's causing the deadly disease, and there's no cure on the horizon.

While pig farms in middle Tennessee have not yet been affected by the virus, called Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea or PED, it is spreading quickly, and farmers are doing whatever they can to make sure their young pigs don't contract the virus.

“It's a very demanding disease that gets in and unfortunately it is pretty much a 100 percent death rate,” said Brandon Whitt, who runs Batey farms in Rutherford County.

The virus has already affected supermarkets and restaurants that buy pork products.

The Whitts Barbecue chain says starting Thursday, its prices for pork will be going up to make up some of the money it’s lost -- the cost of pork has doubled in just a year's time.

While scientists are trying to find a vaccine to protect young pigs against PED, some fear the virus will spread to millions more pigs, driving up the cost of pork in the summer grilling season, right when demand for pork is the highest.

Beyond raising prices, the Whitts barbecue chain said it’s already planning for the worst case scenario this summer.

“I've been talking to my franchisees, and it may be a situation with the unavailable supplies that maybe we're only open three or four days a week,” said Tony Pigue with Whitts Barbecue. “It might be just everybody scraping by until they get another growth, and figure out this disease and cure it.”

Pig farmers said the virus does not affect the quality or safety of the pork if they survive, but they said the virus is so strong if a pig comes down with it, it likely doesn't make it through.

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