On Swine Flu and Pork Production

I really don’t want to add to the panic over swine flu, but I would like to take the opportunity to say just a little bit about the factory farming conditions that are being pointed at as the possible source of the outbreak. Just indulge me for a second, my pork-loving friends!

The conditions at Smithfield Foods plants (follow this link, please!), specifically those dealing with pigs and their waste, are one of the MANY reasons I stopped eating pork three years ago. While I abstain from all pork, I understand that it can be yummy (I often dream about eating bacon!), and I fully understand why people keep eating it despite the mounting evidence of its uncleanliness. And I really don’t think small farmers producing pork products (especially organic operations) on a small scale are the problem. Large-scale, industrial factory “farms” (CAFOs) HAVE proven to be a problem, though, and Smithfield is one of the worst offenders in this arena, in my humble opinion. I’m ashamed of my beloved Paula Deen for hocking their products.

The following paragraphs are from the Organic Consumers Association newsletter. It looks like Smithfield’s horrific business practices may have finally caught up with all of us.

Despite company denials, a number of Mexican and U.S. news outlets are pointing to Virginia-based Smithfield Foods, the world’s largest pig producer ($12 billion in annual sales), as a likely source of the deadly outbreak. Smithfield sells pork and operates massive hog-raising operations in 40 nations, including Perote, Mexico, in the state of Vera Cruz, where the outbreak originated. For months, local residents and workers in Mexico have complained of pollution, contamination, and illnesses from the Smithfield plant. For years, Smithfield has been criticized in the United States for polluting rural communities, endangering public health, and exploiting workers and farmers.

Factory farms, such as Smithfield, feed pigs massive amounts of antibiotics, resulting in swine incubating and spreading antibiotic-resistant germs. These antibiotic-resistant pathogens are considered a major human health hazard by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization. Given these serious public health concerns, a number of health and safety organizations have called for limits or a ban on the practice of feeding antibiotics to farm animals, including the American Public Health Association, American Medical Association, Infectious Diseases Society of America, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the Union of Concerned Scientists.

There’s also a great article on this from Huffington Post to check out that explains more about factory farms and how/why they’ve gotten out of hand.

I get a lot of crap for not eating pork, and I get it. I’m not a vegetarian, and I’m not a completely ethical eater, altough I’m working on it. I try not to gross people out when they ask me why I quit eating it, but the truth is, most pork produced in this and other industrialized countries is so much more than just unhealthy. It can give you BRAIN WORMS, worm balls in your intestines (and just because you kill the worm balls by cooking them doesn’t mean you’re not chewing up WORM BALLS, PEOPLE), and neurological disorders in workers JUST FROM WORKING AROUND PIG BRAINS. And that’s in the industrialized countries, folks. It gets a lot worse in poorer countries with lower hygiene standards. I’ve said it a million times, but I’m betting that two of the world’s major religions recommend abstaining from pork for a damn good reason.

Smithfield has ignored accusations and pleas from the EPA for violating the Clean Water Act and have been slapped with the highest EPA fine in HISTORY. They’ve had lawsuit after lawsuit brought against them by human rights organizations. People living near these plants are at risk of being poisoned to death JUST BY BREATHING, not to mention the many, many workers who have fallen in pig shit “lagoons” surrounding the slaughterhouses and immediately been killed by the unnatural, toxic sludge before they even had a chance to drown. Smithfield has taken their plants to poorer countries now, Mexico in particular, and the conditions have been protested by people in the areas on multiple occasions and for many reasons. And now they might be to blame for what has the potential to be a global pandemic. I’m not trying to spread the fear, because I’m not afraid – this is still isolated, under control, and not an emergency.  But at the same time, it’s a reality that this swine flu virus has the potential to become devastating if it gets out of hand for any reason. And it all started because we can’t seem to get into our heads that what Smithfield and other large-scale factory “farms” do is NOT OKAY. We keep buying their honey-baked hams for our Easter and Christmas celebrations or their brats and sausages for the grill or their bacon for our kids’ breakfast because we don’t connect that eating experience with this one, which is one of the cleaner images on this subject.


There are SO MANY more reasons to not eat pork at all, but if you take nothing else from this, please just start buying your pork products from smaller, local operations, organic if it’s available. Just google it, and I promise you’ll be surprised at what’s easily and readily available. There’s some available every day at the Dallas Farmers Market, and there are several producers in North Texas I found online in 30 seconds. If we stop buying their products, they WILL change. A few year ago, enough people started buying milk without bovine growth hormones that pretty soon afterward, Starbucks got on the no-rBGH bandwagon to make their customers happy. And then, wonder of wonders, Borden and all the other major milk producers got on the money train and started offering organic, rBGH-free milk, too. But it was because people started voting with their wallets.

We can make this better, but only if we stop handing our own money over to corporations like Smithfield. I seriously don’t want to sound like the guy on the five o’clock news, but your life might depend on it one of these days. In the meantime, check out the OCA’s swine and bird flu center to find out how to send a message to the folks in charge about suspending the operations of the corporations that have created this mess.


3 Responses

  1. But they said you can’t get swine flu from eating pork…?

    • Firing Squad: You’re right – you can’t get it from eating pork. This post was about the production methods that are being investigated as a possible source of the outbreak of the virus, not about getting it from eating the pork produced in these facilities. There are plenty of diseases you can get from eating contaminated pork, but not this one. I just included all those others along with the CAFO information because I’m disgusted by them and trying to raise awareness about it in general. Sorry about the confusion.

  2. I rarely think twice about where my meat products come from, but you’ve definitely provided some thought for food in this post. Perhaps it’s time I did a bit of research on these large farm conglomerates, and the local alternatives.

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