Florence Devastates Carolina Meat Producers

By Pan Demetrakakes, Senior Editor

Sep 20, 2018

Hurricane Florence has walloped meat and poultry operations in the Carolinas, with tens of thousands of hogs and millions of birds perishing, and floodwaters breaching hog waste lagoons.

The losses in livestock are expected to nearly double those of Hurricane Matthew two years ago.

The storm and subsequent flooding killed  3.4 million poultry and 5,500 hogs, according to estimates by the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. Sanderson Farms, one of the largest poultry operations in the state, said in a statement that 60 out of 880 company-affiliated poultry houses flooded, with a loss of about 1.7 million broilers, or about 8.5% of Sanderson farmers’ total inventory.

Sanderson also said that initial reports from its processing operations showed no significant damage or disruption, apart from a loss of power to its Kinston, N.C. plant that has since been restored. Operations at plants owned by Purdue Farms and Tyson Foods also resumed after interruption.

An ongoing problem will be water pollution from hog waste lagoons that have been breached or overlapped by flood waters. More than 100 such lagoons in North Carolina are expected to release waste into the environment, according to the state Department of Environmental Quality. Possible consequences include algae blooms in rivers that could threaten fish, and contamination of groundwater aquifers that feed wells.

Meanwhile, food and beverage companies are sending water and other supplies to the affected area. Anheuser Busch and MillerCoors are sending bottled water, and local microbreweries are donating bulk water and sterilizing kegs. PepsiCo, which got its start in New Bern, N.C., has announced it will donate $1 million and 350,000 meals.