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Source: NIKOLAY DOYCHINOV/AFP/Getty Images

U.S. pork companies ban controversial drug so they can sell meat to China

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Tyson Foods subsidiary Tyson Fresh Meats just joined a group of other U.S.-based companies in a ban on feeding the feed additive ractopamine hydrochloride, aka Paylean, to pigs being raised for meat, Modern Farmer reported. Ractopamine, a drug that makes pigs gain weight and build lean muscle quickly, is illegal in 160 countries, but still legal in the U.S. 

While it would be nice to think that Tyson is banning ractopamine as a means of increasing animal welfare, the company is actually removing the additive so it can sell more pork.

Now, the country's three biggest pork producers — Tyson, Smithfield, and JBS — have all prohibited ractopamine.  Interestingly, these moves can be traced back to China, where there was a recent outbreak of African swine fever among pigs, according to Reuters. As the outlet explained, there is no vaccine for this fever, causing many pigs to die before they make it to the slaughterhouse, which is causing pork prices to skyrocket, which is increasing the demand for imported pork. And Tyson, Smithfield, and JBS want to be the ones to fill that void, and sell pork to China. But the only problem is, ractopamine-fed pigs are illegal in China. So to be able to sell to China, these meat giants are simply discontinuing use of ractopamine.