Tyson Fresh Meats, the largest American-owned pork processor, announced Oct. 17 that it plans to prohibit the use of ractopamine in the market hogs it buys from farmers beginning in February 2020. The company said the decision was made to meet growing global demand for U.S. pork as a result of African swine fever (ASF) spreading overseas.
Ractopamine is a feed ingredient that helps increase the amount of lean meat in hogs. While it is Food & Drug Administration approved and considered safe for use, some countries such as China prohibit the import of pork from hogs that have been given ractopamine. With China facing a pork supply shortage due to ASF, U.S. companies like Tyson and JBS USA have decided to switch to ractopamine-free production to capitalize on the increased demand.
Steve Meyer, economist at Kerns & Associates, said the addition of Tyson's production adds another 18.2% to the total U.S. hog capacity that is ractopamine free. Combined with Smithfield, JBS and others, the U.S. hog industry is now 78% ractopamine free.
Tyson Fresh Meats had been offering a limited amount of ractopamine-free pork to export customers by working with farmers who raise hogs without it and by segregating the animals and products at processing plants. However, the company said these programs were no longer adequately meeting the growing global demand.
“We believe the move to prohibit ractopamine use will allow Tyson Fresh Meats and the farmers who supply us to compete more effectively for export opportunities in even more countries,” Tyson Fresh Meats president Steve Stouffer stated.
Most of the hogs delivered to the company’s pork plants are purchased from about 2,000 independent farmers.
Farmers were notified of the change Wednesday and have until Feb. 4, 2020, to meet the new requirement. The company plans to work with its farmer-suppliers over the next several months to begin the process of testing hogs to ensure that they are ractopamine free.
Tyson Fresh Meats generates almost $1 billion in pork export sales annually.