The leader of one of the world’s largest meat companies says there is a “distinct possibility” African Swine Fever could make landfall in the U.S., and “we need to be prepared for that.”

Speaking to investors on Monday, Tyson Foods CEO Noel White said the ASF outbreak “has the potential to change global protein production and consumption patterns” unlike anything he’s seen previously. He estimated the current outbreak equates to “about 10 million metric tons of product that has come out of the marketplace” when considering depopulated hogs in Asian and European outbreaks.

He said the industry and government should use the response to the highly pathogenic avian influenza outbreak of 2014-2015 as a template for what is needed to protect American pork production. “We need to take that as a lesson and use that in the case that (ASF) does come here, as well as from a trade standpoint in talking with our trade partners about regionalization and the fact that it doesn't matter if it's in the United States or within Europe or any other country, (response) should be on a regionalized basis,” White told Tyson investors.

Tyson predicts its pork segment’s operating margin will exceed 6 percent this fiscal year, but acknowledged “it is difficult to predict when ASF might positively impact our pork business. However, we believe any financial benefit will likely occur in late 2019 or later.”

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