Hog markets are depressed. Farmers struggle to put food on the table. Hard times are seeping into the rural economy, hurting owners of grocery and hardware stores.
Blame the media, said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, unleashing several lengthy rants about the evils of oversimplification during a 25-minute teleconference with reporters on Thursday.
Vilsack scolded the media for continuing to call the new strain of pandemic H1N1 flu by its more common name: swine flu.
“It is not swine flu,” Vilsack thundered. “Every time that is said, consumers get confused. Schools that are considering purchases for school lunch and school breakfast programs get confused, get worried.”
Vilsack implied that pork consumption is down because people worry they can catch swine flu — whoops, H1N1 — from eating pork. (You can’t.) Instead of stressing safety of pork, or sharing details about how the USDA plans to keep watch for the flu-that-shall-not-be-named in hogs, Vilsack dressed down reporters for harming farmers.