The nation’s largest pork producer, Smithfield Foods, headquartered in Smithfield, VA, announced plans to reduce its sow herd by 4-5%, beginning immediately.

The Feb. 19-announcement will account for a 40,000-50,000-sow reduction and ultimately reduce the company’s output of market hogs by 800,000 to one million head.

“Given the economics for raising hogs today, we cannot continue on the current path; something has to change,” stated C. Larry Pope, Smithfield’s president and chief operating officer.

“Grain costs continue at record levels, with the potential of escalating, given the current U.S. government policy favoring corn for ethanol. Today, the economics are very challenging and we believe that these increased costs will translate eventually into still higher food costs for the American consumer,” he added.