In 2020, impact of COVID-19 on processing rates was short-lived in largest pork producing region

This is a combination line and bar chart showing changes in the volume of hog slaughter and the number of COVID-19 cases in Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska, and Missouri (Region 7, according to USDA, National Agricultural Statistics Service) in 2020.

Collectively, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, and Nebraska compose the largest hog processing region in the United States. More than 40 percent of all U.S. hogs are processed within the borders of this four-State area USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) identifies as Region 7 of 10 Federal regions. The region is also home to more large and medium-size processing plants than the other regions. Large plants employ more than 1,000 people and medium plants employ 100 to 1,000 people. In the first three months of the (Coronavirus) COVID-19 pandemic (March–May 2020), Region 7 experienced a 40 percent decline in hog slaughter compared with rates during the same period in 2019. Labor shortages attributed to COVID-19 infections among workers resulted in slow production and temporary shutdowns at large processing plants for about 10 weeks. However, when looking at hog slaughter and reported COVID-19 cases for the entire year, slaughter increased even as cases of infection also increased. From June 2020 through the end of December 2020, weekly slaughter rates were generally on par with 2019 levels for the corresponding weeks. The recovery was in part due to improvements in labor availability and the adoption of plant-specific strategies aimed at improving worker safety and efficiency. Overall, hog slaughter for the region in 2020 was approximately 2 percent higher than in 2019, according to NASS’ Livestock Slaughter 2020 Summary, even with the sharp declines in production that occurred at the onset of the pandemic. This chart is drawn from Economic Research Service’s COVID-19 Working Paper: Changes in Regional Hog Slaughter During COVID-19.

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