There are certain things that we hold dear in this world. In the Top Two of those things, we have bacon. (The other one in the Top Two is also bacon. It gets two spots.) Delicious, crispy, and ever so satisfying, it isn’t often that we think about the intense amount of preparation, production, and precautions taken to ensure that we get to enjoy this tasty treat.
Here’s the thing – the livestock we eat can, and does, get sick. One of the diseases they are vulnerable to is Foot-and-Mouth Disease, commonly referred to as FMD. Before you panic and buy all the bacon at your local grocery store, know that FMD has not been detected in the United States since 1929.
That’s an 89–year stretch in which we enjoyed bacon without worry, thanks to healthy livestock. But over those 89 years, the United States developed robust trading markets with countries all over the world. We import and export a variety of items, providing resources to allow farmers to continue blessing us here at home with nutritious and delicious bacon. The danger is that FMD is still present in some areas in countries with which we trade, like parts of Southeast Asia. If an FMD outbreak was ever to occur and then spread to the United States, we’d really be out of the frying pan and into the fire.
Thankfully, this can’t infect humans, only cloven-hoofed animals such as pigs, cows, goats, and deer. It’s even generally assumed by farmers that when one animal gets infected, the remaining livestock will as well – impacting the entire herd.
This doesn’t just affect your bacon consumption. It effects the lives of every American farmer who has built their livelihood on livestock and those who grow crops to feed them. Over a 10-year period, it’s estimated that an FMD outbreak would cause over 1.5 million Americans to lose their jobs. Many economists believe that American farmers may not be able to bounce back from a loss like that. Not only is that bad for the individual farmer, but it’s bad for our entire country. An FMD outbreak would result in an immediate loss of our export markets, eliminating overnight more than 25 percent of revenue for bacon farmers. It would have a cascading negative effect on the national economy, resulting in a $200 billion loss over 10 years if not quickly contained.
If there were to be an FMD outbreak tomorrow, the United States only has enough FMD vaccine to combat a small, localized outbreak. And if you’ve learned anything about FMD from this, it should be that this is not a small or localized disease. Once it spreads, it doesn’t stop. On any given day, one million pigs are being transported across the country. To make matters worse, there are many strains of FMD and the vaccines we have stocked up only prevent a few of those. Uh-oh.
So, what do we need to do? In short, we need to establish a vaccine bank with enough supply across the various strains to be able to quickly contain and eliminate the disease should we face an outbreak. Most say it’s a matter of when, not if, an outbreak will occur.
The cost to establish an FMD vaccine bank pales in comparison to the catastrophic impact an uncontained outbreak would have on job security and economic welfare of all pork producers across the United States – especially small, local farmers. “A vaccine bank is vital for the welfare of not just the pork industry, but the country as a whole. Without it, millions of people might lose their jobs,” says Liz Wagstrom, a Chief Veterinarian and subject matter expert. “It is a much-needed insurance policy for a serious national security risk, ensuring minimal disruption to the negative impact an outbreak would have on the economy and our ability to produce affordable, safe, and nutritious pork for the world.”
An FMD Vaccine Bank benefits livestock, producers, farmers, workers, and even you, the bacon lover. It’s good for America and it’s good for you, because it means that we can continue to eat bacon in every way, shape, and form possible. And what’s better than that?
Now that we’ve got your attention and you’re worried about a widespread bacon shortage, we need your help. We’ve created a petition to raise awareness about this important issue. If you want to protect your bacon (and don’t want it to run out) and you care about your local pork farmers, please join us in letting people know that something has to change. And it has to change now.