What Can the United States Learn from Spain's Pork Sector? Implications from a Comparative Economic Analysis

Sergio H. Lence
September 2005  [05-MRP 12]

This study provides a comparative economic analysis of the primary production of pork and its marketing channel in Spain and the United States. The focus on Spain is due to the profound growth and transformation of its pork sector over the last 20 years, compared with other major players in the world market for pig meat. The analysis reveals a number of similar characteristics but also important differences between the two countries. The significant expansion of Spain's pork production sector stemmed from a number of factors that apply, to a relatively large extent, to some U.S. states (in particular, North Carolina) but do not apply to the U.S. pork production sector as a whole. This implies that it is unlikely that the U.S. pork production sector as a whole will mimic an expansion driven by the same type of factors in the future. Likewise, it seems highly unlikely that the U.S. consumption of pig meat will expand in the future based on the same driving forces behind the sharp increase in Spain's domestic demand for pig meat over the last 20 years. The analysis also indicates that Spanish pig producers are currently being subjected to more stringent environmental and animal welfare regulations than their U.S. counterparts and that these regulations are becoming increasingly more restrictive. It would not be surprising to see similar trends emerging in the United States, leading to a substantially more restrictive regulatory environment for U.S. hog producers.

Keywords: comparative analysis, hog marketing channel, Spain pork industry, U.S. pork industry.

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