Hog farm in limbo

Operations at a hog farm near Rocky Mountain House remain in limbo since the discovery that some of its pigs had been infected with H1N1 flu.

Operations at a hog farm near Rocky Mountain House remain in limbo since the discovery that some of its pigs had been infected with H1N1 flu.

Farm owners Arnold and Alida Van Ginkel need some definite answers from government and industry so they can start planning their future, says Alberta Pork chair Herman Simons.

“Arnold needs assurance that, in the future, he is not going to be treated differently because of this situation,” Simons said.

It is believed that the pigs caught the disease from a worker who had been vacationing in Mexico.

Five hundred pigs had to be destroyed to make room for newborns at the farm. The Van Ginkels will receive government compensation for the culled hogs.

Arnold Van Ginkel is seeking further compensation so he can cull his entire herd and start over, stating that processors will not otherwise buy his hogs.

But performing a total cull is a tough call, because it contradicts industry’s message that people cannot get the flu from eating properly-prepared pork, said Simons.

At the same time, the Van Ginkels are still feeding and caring for animals that may or may not be marketable, so they need to know whether or not to continue breeding their sows, he said.

“We’ve been talking about it’s not a food safety issue, so the message needs to be in balance in relation to that.

“On the other side, I think Arnold’s message is more toward: ‘Give me certainty, so I know where I’m at.’ To that affect, we are working at Alberta Pork on behalf of Arnold and the industry at large together with government at both levels to find a solution to this situation.”

Because there is no food safety issue, pork processors should have no problem purchasing the Van Ginkels’ hogs once they have been cleared of the virus, said Simons.

Van Ginkel was in meetings on Tuesday and could not be reached for comment.

Mayerthorpe-area producer Jurgen Preugschas, chairman of the Canadian Pork Council, issued a statement on Monday commending the Van Ginkels for their courage in voluntarily reporting the status of his herd to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and in thanking the CFIA for its prompt handling of the overcrowding situation at the farm.

“Thanks are also due to Van Ginkel’s neighbours and industry partners for their ongoing support of the Van Ginkel family and for respecting and protecting the privacy of the family until they were ready to be publicly identified,” said Preugschas, a past chair of Alberta Pork.

bkossowan@bprda.wpengine.com

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