Published on 01/04/01

Georgia's Pork Industry Continues to Weaken

This year, odds are most pork products you buy at the grocery store will not be made from hogs raised in Georgia.

According to a report released by the Georgia Agricultural Statistics Service, there are 100,000 fewer hogs on Georgia farms than one year ago.

Steady Decline

Georgia was a leading pork-producing state. At one time, there was a good chance the sausage, ham or bacon you bought came from hogs raised in Georgia. In 1997, about 750,000 hogs contributed about $693 million to the state's economy. Not anymore.

Now, only about 380,000 hogs or pigs can be found on Georgia farms. Fewer Georgia farmers are making a living growing pork.

John McKissick, an economist with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, says the reason is simple and has been happening for several years.

"(Georgia is) losing more and more production capacity because we don't have markets," McKissick said.

It appears that the decline in Georgia pork production will continue.

"We've lost markets for hogs in the Southeast, and we continue to have concern for the ones remaining," he said.

Most hogs grown in Georgia have to be shipped out of state to be processed into consumer products. The shipment is an extra cost to growers. Often, this extra cost is not worth the return for the growers.

Overall, McKissick says, the U.S. pork industry rebounded slightly in 2000. Low feed cost, stronger demand and a moderate decrease in supply improved profits for growers. However, the profits made during 2000 will not offset the estimated $4.4 billion the industry lost between 1997 and 2000.

In 2000, consumer demand for pork, particularly bacon, was on the rise. Bacon prices reached record levels during the first part of 2000. The average price of a pound of bacon was about 17 percent higher than in 1999.

Brad Haire is the former news editor with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.