For starters, a virus outbreak that crossed 22 states in January weighed significantly on the pork industry, pushing futures to new highs. The disease was estimated to affect about 10% of the nation’s sows, according to reports, and frequently is fatal to piglets. Major pork producer Smithfield said it will lose about 2 million to 3 million head of pigs this year as a result.
Like orange juice, it’s hard to get a pure play on pork. But the iPath Dow Jones-UBS Livestock ETN (COW) is one easy way. While the ticker symbol implies cows are the only investment, this fund has is about two-thirds in live cattle and a third in lean hogs futures.
The COW fund is up about 9% year-to-date thanks to rising prices for both pork and beef in 2014.