There’s an enormous outbreak of African Swine Fever among Chinese hogs, and it’s disrupting global grain, meat, and financial markets in profound ways. China, which produces about half the world’s pork, has seen its biggest ever drop in the number of hogs over the past few months. The country’s productive herds slumped 21 percent in March 2019 after a 19 percent drop in February. The total loss may be as much as 30% for the year, with no improvement in sight.

Harmful to humans?

Mercifully, the virus has yet to find a way of leaping across into humans and there’s no indication it will. While there’s no present danger to humans, the swine fever is fatal to pigs.

Chinese officials say they’ve slaughtered around one million hogs so far this year, and analysts say there’s probably more culling to come. To aggravate those losses even further, even the smaller Chinese farmers are backing away from raising pigs and switching their farming efforts to other commodities.

China produces about half of the world’s pork. What happens when Chinese pork output drops like a rock? Prices rise. China will turn to major exporters like the EU and Brazil to fill that gap. Poultry producers will benefit as a pork substitute. Reduced demand for animal feed ingredients, where China has long been the world’s largest importer. Supplies of dried (desiccated) porcine thyroid will fall.

Desiccated (Dried) Thyroid Glands

The loss of dried thyroid glands is vitally important to our health industry. For decades people with low thyroid levels (hypothyroidism) have been taking natural supplements which are made from dried porcine (pig) thyroid glands. The combination of thyroid hormones found in porcine thyroid glands are beneficial for humans because of the close genetic relationship between pigs and humans. No, this isn’t a joke or a political comment.

For decades, the Armour company has made the de-facto standard thyroid replacement product from dried thyroid glands. While the Armour company no longer manufactures the product, their trade name product, Armour Thyroid, is still available from the new owner, Allergan, USA. Because the source of porcine thyroid is drying up in China, many of the commercial thyroid products – especially Armour Thyroid – can be in short supply all over the world.

On the one hand, this can pose a problem, but it doesn’t have to be a disaster. Natural, dried thyroid glands contain numerous hormones, the most prominent being levothyroxine (T4) and liothyronine (T3). Traditionally, one grain (60 to 65 mg) of desiccated thyroid delivered 38 mcg of T4 and 9 mcg of T3. Other strengths deliver proportional amounts. The good news is that quality manufacturing laboratories have been successfully producing almost unlimited supplies of pure, bioidentical thyroid hormones, T4 and T3. Bioidentical means they are identical on a molecular level with the thyroid hormones we all produce in our bodies. The starting material for these hormones is fermented tyrosine, an amino acid that’s abundant in almost all foods.

Compounding Alternatives

Specialty pharmacies, like The Compounder in Aurora, have been making alternatives to the dried pork thyroid for years and can make any combination of T4 and T3 a doctor prescribes – even ones that don’t exactly duplicate the 38:9 ratio of the traditional one-grain tablets. Your doctor can discuss this with the compounding pharmacist and prescribe the exact combination that’s best for you.