Pork Powerhouses

Successful Farming Magazine Executive Editor Betsy Freese has been collecting statistics on sow numbers in the United States since 1994. This year, her Pork Powerhouses survey includes 40 of the nation’s top pork producers. There’s been a lot of money made in the packing industry over the past few years, and she says some of them are putting that money into more production.

"The largest farm in the U.S., the largest pork producer in probably the world, is Smithfield Foods. Smithfield Foods has 910,000 sows in the U.S., and they have 1.195 million sows in the world," says Freese. "They increased by 30,000 sows this year, but that was acquisition, not building new sow farms."

When combining all 40 companies, there are almost a-quarter-million more sows today than there were one-year ago, which is the most expansion Freese has seen in 10-years.

Since 1994, the market has crashed twice after expansions. This trend could spell future trouble.

"I fully predict, if 23 years of history tells us anything, that the market’s probably going to crash," says Freese. "Now the difference this year is that we have two big new packing plants. We have a new packing plant in Iowa and one in Michigan that just came online, so we have more packing plant capacity."

Freese says the number one concern of these producers is being able to keep the overseas export market going. Somebody has to help us eat all this meat.

Read the full pork powerhouses report here.