Nebraska farmers fear euthanizing hogs as meat-processing plants close

A Des Moines man who recorded a show pig's treatment at the Iowa State Fair has been banned...
A Des Moines man who recorded a show pig's treatment at the Iowa State Fair has been banned from the fair for life. (USDA)(KWQC)
Published: Apr. 27, 2020 at 8:22 PM CDT
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It’s a gut-wrenching situation hog farmers across the nation were hoping to avoid; an estimated 3 to 5 million pigs are now expected to be euthanized as more and more meat-processing plants shut their doors.

“It’s a dire situation both economically and emotionally for us hog farmers,” said Terry O’Neel past president of the National Pork Board.

O’Neel farms hogs in Friend, NE. He’s doing everything possible to avoid killing off any of his hogs, noting a call Monday morning about the nearby Smithfield Foods processing plant closing for at least a couple of weeks, is making it harder.

“Once you put a stop to the system it’s hard to really just put the breaks on them and store these animals - it just doesn’t happen - we only have a matter of weeks before we have to make decisions,” said O’Neel.

Up in Hartington, NE that tough decision has already been made.

“The last thing I want to do is euthanize pigs,” said Dave Hansen. “I meant that’s just not what we’re geared to do.”

But the closure of the Smithfield Foods processing plant in Sioux Falls forced Hansen into that position.

“We’re actually euthanizing 500 to 600 heads of pig a week that are suppose to go into their system,” said Hansen, noting right now they are putting down piglets, which can be incinerated after being killed, but if he has to start euthanizing large hogs, that’s much different.

“The National Pork Board actually yesterday held a seminar,” said Hansen, “On an environmentally safe way to bury pigs, some guidelines on how to do this because none of us have done this before.”

It’s uncharted waters none of these farmers want to be navigating.

“It’s something we don’t take lightly it’s a very last resort item we need to do,” said O’Neel, “It’s not because of economics it’s just a matter of fact - we have no place to go with them.”