Pork industry in Iowa continues growing

The Iowa pork industry is a robust industry that continues to expand and increasingly contribute to the Iowa economy.

Hog inventory numbers reached a new record high with 24.8 million hogs on Iowa farms in December 2019. Iowa holds 32 percent of the U.S. hog inventory.

Decision Innovation Solutions (DIS) estimates that in 2019 there were 5,418 hog farms in Iowa. The size of hog farms in Iowa continues to increase.

Sixty-nine percent of Iowa's hog inventory is now (2017 Census of Agriculture) on farms with 5,000 or more head. That is up from 54 percent a decade ago and 26 percent in 1997.

The most common commercial-size hog farm in Iowa is between 2,000 and 5,000 head with 32 percent of Iowa hog farms in this size category.

Farms with 5,000 or more head comprise 20 percent of all farms, and farms of 1,000-2,000 head account for 13 percent of hog farms.

The five counties in Iowa with more than 1 million hogs hold 25 percent of Iowa's hog inventory. These are: Washington, Sioux, Lyon, Hamilton, and Plymouth counties.

slaughter facilities

Iowa has 14 commercial hog slaughter facilities with an estimated daily slaughter capacity of 152,050 head and an annual slaughter capacity of 42,695,640 head.

In 2019, Iowa's hog slaughter plants operated at 91.6 percent capacity for all of 2019. Iowa slaughtered 39.117 million hogs in 2019, which represents about 30.11 percent of the total number (129.915 million) of hogs slaughtered in the U.S. In December 2019, national hog slaughter capacity utilization was nearly 100 percent of calculated weekly capacity.


In 2020 (brought forward from 2018 estimates), hog production, slaughter, further processing and other related economic activity in Iowa are estimated to contribute:

' $11.9 billion in value-added

' 147,105 in jobs

' $40.8 billion in sales (output)

' $6.84 billion in labor income

' $893 million in state and local taxes

' $1.3 billion in federal taxes

Of the $40.8 billion in output from the hog industry in the state of Iowa:

' Hog production contributed $13.8 billion

' Hog slaughtering contributed $22.3 billion

' Hog processing contributed $4.7 billion


Inventory Iowa's hog inventory data for the last 20 years has varied, but numbers have consistently increased, particularly since 2015.

In December 2019, Iowa's hog inventory reached a record high of 24.8 million head. Inventory data from 2000 to 2019 shows that, on average, Iowa's hog inventory share of U.S. total inventory was equal to 28.7 percent.

Hog inventory grew from 15.1 million in 2000 to 24.8 million in 2019. Hog inventories briefly declined in 2013 to 20.2 million hogs due to disease. This outbreak caused significant morbidity and mortality, particularly in young piglets. Iowa's Dec. 1, 2013, inventory of under-50-pound hogs (4.840 million head) was 5.5 percent below its Dec. 1, 2012, level.

Since then, all weight classes of hogs have experienced significant increases.

Over the past 10 years, on average, Iowa's inventory of under-50-pound hogs has been 24.7 percent of Iowa's total hog inventory. Over the past 10 years, U.S. hog inventory has grown at a 1.8 percent annual average rate, while Iowa hog inventory has increased 2.8 percent annually.

U.S. hog operations are mostly concentrated in the Midwest (Iowa and Southern Minnesota, particularly) and in eastern North Carolina.

Among main hog producers, Iowa holds the largest inventories. In 2019, Iowa hog inventory was 2.7 times higher than the inventories in North Carolina and Minnesota. When compared with Illinois and Indiana, Iowa inventory was 4.6 and 5.8 times higher, respectively.

The price of pork was on its way down in late 2019, but a surge in demand this spring has resulted in higher prices at the grocery store. (Photo courtesy of Dal Grooms)
Some farmers had to wait longer than normal to have their pigs slaughtered this spring because pork processing plants closed down or operated at reduced capacity. (Photo courtesy of Dal Grooms)
Al Wulfekuhle, of G&W Pork, in a finishing barn at the farm of Curt and Cindy Gentz in Masonville, Iowa, on Friday, May 22, 2020. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
Al Wulfekuhle, of G&W Pork, in a finishing barn at the farm of Curt and Cindy Gentz in Masonville, Iowa, on Friday, May 22, 2020. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
Union photo by Ashley Duong Robert McConnell, a hog farmer from Washington County, said many farmers feel African Swine Fever reaching the United States is inevitable. McConnell produces about 13,000 hogs a year.
Photo courtesy of Dee Sandquist Piglets suckle on their mother at a hog farm in Jefferson County.