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Pork's Dirty Secret


Mallet
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I don't know if this article's been discussed elsewhere. In any case, it's one of the most graphic depictions of the direct impacts of concentrated pork production on the environment.

Even light rains can cause lagoons to overflow; major floods have transformed entire counties into pig-shit bayous. To alleviate swelling lagoons, workers sometimes pump the shit out of them and spray the waste on surrounding fields, which results in what the industry daintily refers to as "overapplication." This can turn hundreds of acres -- thousands of football fields -- into shallow mud puddles of pig shit. Tree branches drip with pig shit.

Contrast this with the virtual tour from Smithfield's website.

I thought this was sort of cool too (google maps) zoom out and see how many hog farms you can spot!

Martin Mallet

<i>Poor but not starving student</i>

www.malletoyster.com

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Mallet,

I see you are from Halifax Nova Scotia.

You are lucky not to be a resident of Halifax County, North Carolina.

They have been overrun with industrial hog farms.

But they are fighting.

http://urbanhabitat.org/node/164

http://www.ehponline.org/docs/2000/108p225...g/abstract.html

For more about the Concerned Citizens of Tillery:

http://www.cct78.org/

The first url talks about Charles Tillery, and the town of Tillery, NC, which is named for his family. Some of impacted people are the descendents of the Tillery family's slaves; some of them are named Tillery too. Interesting that today they are all working together to fight off these stinky pigs.

nibor

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Just one more reason that I decided to raise my own pig again. No, I'm not planning a hog farm, just one porker so that we can have some good, safe, tasty meat.

I realize not everyone is in the situation to do this but small local producers are the way to go if one can't raise their own.

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Thanks for the virtual tour link. It's now of the top of my list for absolute corporate bullshit. They give a number to call for more bull. I may just do that for giggles.

See the cute piglets. Here’s how we smoke bacon “naturally” in a plant that processes 30,000 hogs a day. Tell the Sierra Club to take a vacation because we’re taking care of the environment.

I guess we can throw out our home cured bacon from our Berkshire. No way can I compete with the “gold standard”. I love such meaningful statements like “we meet or exceed the standards set by the USDA” Isn’t that kinda like saying; Gee we do what’s required and maybe a little more. Maybe we should give them an award for not throwing babies into the smokehouse too.

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Yeah I read that article the other day, and it really makes the case for getting pork form small local producers. Bacon...sooooo tasty though.

Have you had bacon from a small processor? If a couple of families split a hog and have the meat locker process it you will have some incredable bacon along with well priced and great pork.

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Does anyone have recommendations for finding a small processor?  I have tried without much luck via localharvest.com - perhaps I should try phone contact rather than email?

Maybe one of the Pittsburgh Farmer's markets?

edited to add link

Edited by Mallet (log)

Martin Mallet

<i>Poor but not starving student</i>

www.malletoyster.com

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I'm no defender of the factory "farms", but have you ever seen what hogs do to the landscape if left to their own devices? :hmmm:

Hogs were used in colonial times to clear land. It's unbelievable what they can do. The land ends up bearing more resemblance to a WWI battlefield than a pastoral farm setting. :sad:

SB The expression "knee deep in pig shit" is just the way they like it! :shock:

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Does anyone have recommendations for finding a small processor?  I have tried without much luck via localharvest.com - perhaps I should try phone contact rather than email?

I'd be more than happy to help. Farmers' are not real quick on e-mail for the most part. This is a great time of the year to look into pork. Pastured pork is becomming available.

How many people are you feeding? Are you willing to commit to a few cubic feet of freezer storage?

Edited by StanSherman (log)
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I'm no defender of the factory "farms", but have you ever seen what hogs do to the landscape if left to their own devices? :hmmm:

There are some really smart farmers who use those traits in pigs instead of tractors. There is tons of middle ground between "pigs gone wild" and Smithfield.

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I saw the 'Rolling Stone' story or something similar and did use Google Earth to try to see the hog farms -- couldn't find anything.

I don't know what's wrong with the citizens in the area reported by the article: I have a friend who used to kill and cut 5000 hogs a day, put the cuts into boxes, load them onto refrigerated trucks, and drive to New York City for delivery.

So, yes, they had some 'waste water' running from the plant. But, they had to treat the water very carefully. What actually ran into the local stream was really harmless -- the only remaining question was from chemists analyzing the 'basic oxygen demand' making sure it was not too high for the stream. The water quality was watched very carefully by the state environmental quality agency.

For the farms, I've seen some that raise chickens, turkeys, hogs, etc., and I've never seen or smelled anything like the descriptions in the 'Rolling Stone' story.

However, I have been concerned about the quality of the last samples I got of fresh picnic pork shoulder: The meat tasted like hog manure. Until I can find some pork shoulder from hogs raised in reasonably clean conditions, I'm avoiding such pork.

What would be the right food and wine to go with

R. Strauss's 'Ein Heldenleben'?

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Project,

There is a HUGE difference between 'waste water' and a manure lagoon. And if you haven't smelled a turkey lot or a feedlot as you've viewed it, all I can say is that either you were standing well upwind or you have no sense of smell.

I dunno; it just seems to me that anyplace that smells that bad can't possibly be turning out a superior product. But I'm just simple folk, and the kind people at Hormel have been up to the college school and they got letters they can put after their names and everything.

*edit to add* This is coming from a guy who grew up in a rural area of Wisconsin and to whom a waft of cowflop is as heady and aromatic as Coco Chanel (No lie. Smells like home). But there's a world of difference between a day's worth of poo from 20 animals, and the manure lagoon--or runoff catch tank-- of a huge processing facility. Just as in the same way that a whiff of a hayfield in the cool evening is not the same thing as stacking bales in a haymow three degrees cooler than its flash point.

Edited by Reefpimp (log)

This whole love/hate thing would be a lot easier if it was just hate.

Bring me your finest food, stuffed with your second finest!

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Project,

There is a HUGE difference between 'waste water' and a manure lagoon.  And if you haven't smelled a turkey lot or a feedlot as you've viewed it, all I can say is that either you were standing well upwind or you have no sense of smell. 

I dunno; it just seems to me that anyplace that smells that bad can't possibly be turning out a superior product.  But I'm just simple folk, and the kind people at Hormel have been up to the college school and they got letters they can put after their names and everything.

hehe

I guess you haven't smelled more than two pigs together. They create manure lagoons. That's what they do. Even wild with the scrub of Florida to wander free range. I guarantee that any small processor of pork, will simply stink.

Pigs stink. It is expected.

I hate Smithfield products personally. Hate it even worse that they are breeding the fat out of the pigs.

But make no mistake, pigs are pigs.

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Anne, I suspect many farmers would disagree with that statement (maybe Stan can chime in?). Obviously I'm not pretending that shit from sustainably managed pork smells like roses, but that's a far cry from manure "lagoons". As far as the environmental points raised in the article, I think their beef (couldn't resist) is one of scale and concentration. Instead of distributing the same number of pigs in relatively small operations across the country Smithfields has concentrated its operations in a small area, and ecosystem simply can't handle it.

Project, I'm surprised you couldn't find anything using the link I provided. Zooming out and scrolling around I found around- 30 hog farms in a 5km square, many with pretty big lagoons (about 100m x 50m). In one instance, the lagoon was bigger than the farm!

Martin Mallet

<i>Poor but not starving student</i>

www.malletoyster.com

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A pig farm stinks. A big pig farm stinks big.

We are trying to by a farm in Iowa. In the Midwest they basically grow corn, soy and alfalfa. They raise pigs, dairy cows and beef. In California we grow hundreds of the other varieties. Cows and beef are reasonably big. Pigs aren’t around here much.

Because of our lack of knowledge in corn, the family that is hopefully selling us the farm sold off 40 acres of the corn, but left the balance for us. They restricted the deed to not allow “hogs”. We’ve been told to basically stay at least eight miles away for any mid to large size hog farm.

Have you ever driven by a cattle feed lot in the summer? Pretty big stink. I don’t know anyone who lives in farm areas who likes the smell of hogs over cows.

Researchers at the University of Iowa found an unusually high rate of respiratory problems among people who lived near a 4,000-sow hog confinement facility. Certainly the Smithfield plant with 30,000 hogs a day going through must have some serious impact.

The new large facilities are called “farrow-to-finish”. They are born, raised and processed without trucking them. Their economics depend on volume. They have a huge capital investment so their bottom line is much more sensitive to volume than the price of feed.

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you can't judge a farm by its stink. this is in no way a defense of factory farming, but gentle sensibilities should not go where animals are raised. i was just at a live poultry shop and even though teh chickens are held there less than 24 hours, the odor was penetrating.

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you can't judge a farm by its stink. this is in no way a defense of factory farming, but gentle sensibilities should not go where animals are raised. i was just at a live poultry shop and even though teh chickens are held there less than 24 hours, the odor was penetrating.

Urban folks moving into farm areas is a real problem just as really smelly or dirty operations moving into one. Many of the farm zoning regulations we written prior to any of these super-size facilities. They did not comprehend the enormous volume that they would be putting out in a relativily small acreage. California requires purchasers near agricultural areas to sign a statement stating that they are aware that they do not have the right to stop an exhisting operation from doing what they have already been doing.

I bring up the "stink" factor because that is the major reason these facilities are getting flack. Surely a hungry country town welcomes the economic impact.

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you can't judge a farm by its stink. this is in no way a defense of factory farming, but gentle sensibilities should not go where animals are raised. i was just at a live poultry shop and even though teh chickens are held there less than 24 hours, the odor was penetrating.

Urban folks moving into farm areas is a real problem just as really smelly or dirty operations moving into one. Many of the farm zoning regulations we written prior to any of these super-size facilities. They did not comprehend the enormous volume that they would be putting out in a relativily small acreage. California requires purchasers near agricultural areas to sign a statement stating that they are aware that they do not have the right to stop an exhisting operation from doing what they have already been doing.

I bring up the "stink" factor because that is the major reason these facilities are getting flack. Surely a hungry country town welcomes the economic impact.

In other words, perhaps Rolling Stone, with its crack investigative journalists, has "discovered" a problem that industry and government agencies are not only aware of, but working on, with the cooperation of most in the rural communites affected?

There are problems to be addressed, to be sure, and hopefully technology will alleviate if not solve them, while paying due attention to all of the economic and social implications.

Maybe making pigs, (like making sausage, and laws), is one of those things that's best when not observed up close?

SB :rolleyes:

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my dad and sister live in that area south of phoenix where there are subdivisions springing up every 2 seconds. it used to be all dairy/cattle. in my sister's neighborhood, there was an old family dairy operation that everyone figured was doomed. but they opened their doors, encouraged school tours, had community festivals, put a cute cow out front, started making some value-added products like cheese, etc., and now people are up in arms any time a new neighbor complains.

this is not the same situation as the massive feedlot operations that you find other places, though. these are seriously nasty. the only problem is, any possible fix would raise the price of beef and bacon and you know consumers won't support that.

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Reefpimp:

"There is a HUGE difference between 'waste water' and a manure lagoon. And if you haven't smelled a turkey lot or a feedlot as you've viewed it, all I can say is that either you were standing well upwind or you have no sense of smell."

Sure.

My friend's kill and cut facility killed the hogs about quickly as they were received and didn't need a manure lagoon. The place didn't smell like roses, but it wasn't anything like a manure lagoon.

I was often on my father in law's farm in Indiana where he raised chickens, turkeys, and hogs, and there was no objectionable smell in the main dwelling or most places on the farm. Also, the other farms in the area didn't smell.

Next farm to the north raised cattle, and it didn't smell. Near where I am in Upstate New York, 70 miles north of Wall Street, there is a farm with a herd of cattle, sometimes with the cattle near the road, and there is no smell.

My father in law had no manure lagoon. For manure, it was sufficient to use a tractor to get the straw, etc. out of the long, low, wide buildings and spread it on the land for the row crops. For the animals that didn't make it, just have a trench, toss them in, and cover it over.

The row crops were plenty clean: Actually, field corn, if get it when nicely young and cook it within minutes of picking it, is really sweet, good eating, and we did eat some of the field corn this way.

No doubt the big difference was just 'density', number of animals per acre. So, some facility with a very high density and a manure lagoon could smell just awful, bad enough to raise health concerns for both the humans and the animals.

For your

"I dunno; it just seems to me that anyplace that smells that bad can't possibly be turning out a superior product."

I fully agree. That's why I'm no longer buying fresh picnic pork shoulder.

In astoundingly high contrast, in Spain some hogs are very carefully raised on nuts. In Italy, some hogs are very carefully raised on whey from making cheese; one result is Prosciutto, which is raw but cured pork. In both cases, the flavor of the pork is regarded as just excellent. I can't believe that the farms with the animals smell bad.

The US got 'large scale industrialization' before it got traditions of good food. The food is sold as a commodity based just on price. The USDA keeps down really serious food safety problems, but nearly everything else, including flavor, is set aside.

Part of the solution is better information, better than the news media puts out, and here eG and the rest of the Internet is helping.

I'm not buying the the smelly stuff and am making it clear that I'm not.

Mallet:

I was brief and not clear: I used Google Earth some weeks ago after seeing whatever similar article I did see and before I saw your thread and didn't try again with your URL.

The places with manure lagoons need some new local zoning laws.

Dairy cattle raise an interesting point: The taste of milk is very sensitive to what the cows eat. If they eat something that tastes bad, then the milk might taste bad. So, for good tasting milk, I have to believe that the cows are not raised in stinking conditions.

Then there is another interesting point: Meat from dairy cattle should have superior flavor to meat from beef cattle that spent a lot of time in stinking feed lots. So, where would one get meat from 'retired' dairy cattle? Well, I discovered that a large fraction of the retired dairy cattle in NY go to a certain packing house in PA, and they told me that a lot of the meat goes into coarsely ground hamburger sold to fast food and grocery stores who regrind to something finer at the last minute. Indeed, some of the hamburger I've gotten recently did have an especially good aroma, e.g., in great contrast to the last bottom round roasts I got.

Stinking cattle are likely mostly from feed lots that feed the cattle a lot of corn to add fat in the muscle. But, the idea that this fat is really necessary is fading, and grass fed cattle are starting to catch on. They might taste better! Also, the price of corn may rise due to demand for ethanol, and one result might be still more grass fed cattle.

What would be the right food and wine to go with

R. Strauss's 'Ein Heldenleben'?

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In astoundingly high contrast, in Spain some hogs are very carefully raised on nuts.  In Italy, some hogs are very carefully raised on whey from making cheese; one result is Prosciutto, which is raw but cured pork.  In both cases, the flavor of the pork is regarded as just excellent.  I can't believe that the farms with the animals smell bad.

project makes a lot of good points. but i'm not sure the "place smells bad/meat tastes bad" connection holds ... or maybe i've just got too sensitive of an urban smeller. because i've been to parma; i've seen the hogs that go into prosciutto on the farm. and they sure don't smell like parmigiano.

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Steve,

The idea that technology is going to solve all our problems is already a hotly debated topic. Many believe the technology that is being pushed may be creating more problems than it is solving. A few large companies are making profits and people can buy cheaper food, but are we paying for it with health problems?

About thirty years ago, we spent about 24% of our income on food. Now it’s about 10%. Now we have more money to buy more crap at Wal-Mart, and can pay the interest on our over extended credit cards.

I’m certainly not technology phobic. I really enjoy the fact that you and I can have this discussion from 2000 miles away, but when it comes to farming the trends truly disturb me. There is a better way to grow healthy and tasty food and my hope is we don’t lose those ways.

You don’t hear chefs like Thomas Keller bragging about how they serve a chop from Shitfield. Usually you hear about purveyors who raise an extremely high quality product by means that are quite old. Every time we got into how to raise the best chickens we ended up talking to some Amish guy. We spent several days on Amish farms in the past couple of years and only wish the American public would have learned more about them than their buggies when those school girls were murdered. The place we want is walking distance from a one-room Amish schoolhouse, and spending a little time with those girls was precious. They make puppies seem evil. It takes some time to truly understand their resistance to adopting every new thing that comes along.

BTW, The feed lots stink because they have large numbers of cattle in a concentrated space for the final finishing. They are also raised on pasture, but depending on many factors, they are fed 1-6 months of (typically) corn before they are harvested. During the summer they water the whole mess down to cool the cattle, so it really gets stinky with ammonia and other smells.

Many small-scale producers feel that the animals grow better when they have fresh air. It does make sense, since they get oxygen via their lungs, too.

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My parents place in Knoxville TN is on what used to be a cow pasture and has not had a cow on it for close to 20 years. While it is still expanding durring excavation you can still smell the cow urine. This is especialy prevelent after rain.

Pigs themselves don't smell bad, infact they like to be clean. They roll in mud to stay cool. The excrament however is truly foul.

Living hard will take its toll...
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