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News that pork prices will soar piggybacks on reports of costlier beef

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Plan to go whole hog enjoying a BLT, but do it soon. The Des Moines Register reports pork products are expected to soar by as much as 15 percent by this summer.

The reason pork-lovers will need more in their piggy banks for pay for ribs, chops, hams, bacon and sausage? A swine virus that’s sweeping the country is taking a toll. So far, hog producers in 27 states including Minnesota have reported herds infected with the highly contagious porcine epidemic diarrhea virus, known as PEDv. Reuters reported that the virus has killed between 4 million and 5 million U.S. hogs since it was discovered in May 2013.

The virus is fatal to piglets but poses no threat to other animals or humans. Pork products remain safe for consumers.

The National Restaurant News reported that the Easter ham will be more expensive this year. The story said that hams that weigh 20-23 pounds are running 30 percent above year-ago levels. WPSD in Paducah, Kentucky visited the Hughes Market, which processes up to 6,000 pounds of pork products a week. The station reported that the cost of half a pork loin was expected to jump from $19.81 to $27.11 in two weeks.

High pork prices could be around well into next year. “Every week, we look at the reports, more sows, more farms are testing positive,” said Iowa veterinarian and pork producer Craig Rowley.

One analyst predicted that pork supplies will shrink by 10 percent, which will eventually affect output at processing plants.“I would say come May, our plants in the upper Midwest are going to have problems with supplies. I think we’re going to have workers taking a day a week off," said Steve Meyer, an analyst at Paragon Economics.

Cost-conscious consumers can't pig out on beef as an alternative; shoppers already facing record high grocery store prices for beef. Beef supplies have been shrinking because of drought in cattle-producing states from Texas to the Dakotas. Beef prices are expected to climb 7 percent in 2014, and lean ground beef could spike up to 20 percent this year, according to the Des Moines Register.

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