Christensen Farms is the largest shareholder in the Triumph Foods plant in St. Joseph, Missouri, and part owner of the Seaboard Triumph Foods plant in Sioux City, Iowa. Between the two plants, at least 611 workers have tested positive for coronavirus and three have died.
With disruptions to the supply chain, "pork producers have been faced with making unfathomable and heartbreaking, yet critically necessary decisions to sacrifice pigs that processing plants were unable to take,” the company said in a statement.
Christensen Farms spokeswoman JoDee Haala said it used a variety of methods approved by the American Veterinary Medical Association to euthanize hogs. She said its preferred methods for disposal have been to render carcasses into fats used in products such as animal feed or using them as compost.
Christensen Farms said it was grateful for the support from the Iowa program “as the sector navigates prolonged and unprecedented uncertainty.”
The Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship released the claims data Wednesday in response to an open records request by The Associated Press.
Iowa launched the program in May to reimburse farmers $40 for each euthanized market-ready hog up to 225 pounds (102 kilograms). It is paid for with federal funds provided to the state for coronavirus relief.
Participation has been lower than anticipated, agriculture department spokeswoman Keely Coppess said. It's unclear why some filed claims and others did not, she said. Only a tiny fraction of Iowa’s estimated 6,200 pig farms have sought payments.
Christensen Farms reported euthanizing all 46,599 hogs between May 1 and June 5. It received the maximum allowed claim of 30,000 hogs in the first round of funding and 16,599 in the second.
Demand for the program dropped in the next two rounds of funding, which covered the bulk of June. Producers making claims must provide proof of proper disposal and an affidavit from a veterinarian.
The department expanded eligibility this month to producers who euthanized hens after the price of liquid eggs plummeted as a result of restaurant and school closures. For the first time, this round of funding also will pay $4 per piglet of up to 25 pounds (11 kilograms) euthanized between May 1 and July 20.
The number of hogs euthanized dwarfs the number donated during the first phase of Iowa's highly touted Pass the Pork program.
The state launched the program in April to pay the cost of having pigs processed and packaged for food banks. By early June, 451 pigs had been donated, resulting in 200,000 servings of pork.