A nasty strain of the virus has wreaked havoc in the pig business of China, killing more than 50 percent of the country's total swine headcount, and adding another hole into its already battered economy.
This has added another pain for a nation that relies heavily on one source of meat: pork. Now, as prices in the global market skyrockets, Chinese trade strategists are trying to spur its farming sector to raise more pigs.
The solution to this pressing concern? Breed extremely large pigs. And one resourceful farmer knows just what to do.
A farmer in the southern outskirts of the country is breeding a type of pig that weighs around half a ton, or the size of a fully grown bison, Bloomberg reported. This kind of size can yield an average of 110 to 130 kilos of meat when slaughtered, the report said.
And this southern farmer is not the only one who has discovered this new technique. According to Bloomberg, a bunch of other popular Chinese swine farm owners is also boosting the size of the pigs they are raising.
The 1,102-pound fat-bellied animal is part of a herd that is being "engineered" to become gargantuan swine, some of whom can fetch for nearly $1,400 (10,000 yuan), or more than thrice higher compared to the average monthly salary in the Guangxi province where Pang Cong, the farm's owner, resides. Pigs this huge have been raised before, but the animals usually die from infections.
The more gigantic the pigs, the more money can be made, thanks to the dreaded African swine fever, which first began spreading in August last year and wiped out an enormous number from farms across Asia, even the slim ones have become a good source of income these days.
Adults pigs usually grow from 150 to 300 kilos. But the largest local pig ever listed as "Big Bill" from Tennessee, which weighed more than 2,500 pounds.
The pig had to be euthanized because it injured its legs from carrying all that heavy load. In 2004, another Chinese-bred giant called "Ton Pig" perished from lack of mobility caused by extreme obesity. The pig weighed more than 1,900 pounds.
China is the biggest consumer of pork in the world, accounting for over 50 percent of global pork appetite. According to Bloomberg, the country's small-sized farm owners, as well as large swine breeders, are all targeting to raise bigger pigs, attempting to jack up average swine weight by 15 percent to lift profits by 30 percent.