Mike Pfeiffer didn’t come up with the idea to sell his pigs individually on his own.
The Ashton farmer was watching TV and learned of a South Carolina couple that did the same and had success.
“I told my wife that we had to do it,” Pfeiffer said. “We had to avoid euthanasia and burying them.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has closed meat packing plants around the country, interrupting the supply chains and leaving farmers like Pfeiffer without anywhere to offload their pigs.
When too many are crammed into a pen, it encourages cannibalism among the herd and food costs rise. The only other option is paying to euthanize and bury the pigs.
Pfeiffer’s wife, Joan, took to Facebook last week to advertise the pigs for sale to individuals at a cost of $100 a head.
“I was overwhelmed by the people that called and asked,” Pfeiffer said. “We had to turn people away. We had people from Missouri, Kentucky and Minnesota call about the pigs.”
On May 2, Pfeiffer sold just over 200 pigs that he had available. Buyers had to bring their own trailers and pay in cash.
The buyers will have to process the pigs themselves. Pfeiffer said he checked with local processors and was told there was no availability. He said the buyers must have access to someone to process them the way a deer would be after being killed.
Pfeiffer’s pigs were market ready and between 270-300 pounds. They were locally grown on his family farm and non-GMO and antibiotic-free. Normally, he’d get around 45 cents per pound for the pigs. Selling them for $100 basically amounts for him to break even, he said.
“My Tyson buyer told me to wait four weeks ago,” Pfeiffer said. “That’s when we last sold. Usually it’s once a week. He had to refuse 25 semi loads that week.”
President Trump signed an executive order last week mandating that meat packing plants stay open. Pfeiffer believes social distancing will cut down on capacity.
Pfeiffer has been raising pigs for over 40 years and usually produces about 3,200 a year. Usually, pigs support his grain farming operations. That’s another aspect of his business that has taken a hit with the ethanol market down and bad weather last year.
“I’ve never seen anything like it,” Pfeiffer said. “I hope I never see anything like it again.”