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Missouri Pork Producers Suffer From Nickname "Swine Flu"

What’s in a name? Missouri hog farmers say a lot of money, livestock, and headaches are. KSMU’s Jennifer Moore spoke with one man who says when the H1N1 virus came to be known as “Swine Flu,” Missouri pork producers began to watch their sales plummet.

Farmers have argued that nicknaming the H1N1 virus “Swine Flu” has been devastating for hog farmers. I’m joined on the phone by Denny Banister, assistant director of public affairs for the Missouri Farm Bureau, who joined us from the State Fair in Sedelia.

He said hog farmers got hit by a "double whammy," just as their products were gaining momentum overseas. The first hit came from rising grain prices, which meant it cost more to feed their livestock. But the real economic pain, he said, came when the H1N1 virus came to be known as "Swine Flu." Pork producers stood by and watched their sales, particularly their overseas exports, plummet.

The H1N1 virus was given the nickname "Swine Flu" because pigs can catch it. But when the meat of an animal is properly cooked, even an infected animal, health experts say that poses no risk whatsoever to humans.

Banister says the main message he's trying to convey is that the H1N1 virus, or "Swine Flu," is not a food-borne illness, and thus it cannot be contracted by what you buy at the grocery store. He says no swine herds in Missouri, or the US, are infected with the virus.

He says he's not making fun of the flu itself, since it's a serious illness that people can die from, but he has come up with some tongue-in-cheek, fictitious varieties of flu to further make his point:

"Monday Flu," he jokes, is one which incubates on weekends and strikes suddenly when the alarm rings Monday morning. He's also come up with "Fescue Flu," which appears when the lawn needs mowing.

He says he feels the media have not done a good job of covering the fact that a person cannot contract the virus from eating pork.

According to the Missouri Farm Bureau, Missouri hog farmers are losing between 30 and 35 dollars on each pig they own, because of the slump in demand for pork.

For KSMU News, I'm Jennifer Moore.


Missouri Pork Association