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Pork's Dirty Secret


Mallet
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I think someone else has brought up this point, but I will raise it once again.

One man's stink, is another man's food on the table. I actually think that properly composted manure smells rich and clean. It is still crap, and others have told me that they think it smells like crap.

Paper mills, pig farms, a dairy (and I am very well aquainted with some very well run ones) is a great place for blow flies and rodents to thrive.

You cannot run the operation without attracting a certain amount of undesirables.

All that being said, I still don't like Smithfield. Never have.

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I think you very much can judge a farm by its stink. I live right in the heart of dairy country--drove a milk truck for a few months lo those many years ago, in fact--and let me tell you, the best farmers had the cleanest farms. Yeah, everybody's got rats in the corncrib; fact of life. Cowpoo draws flies; silage ferments and smells funny. I've got to say, though, that by busting ass all day, every day, you can keep pretty far ahead of the worst of it. And for building character, nothing much beats standing in the bars of a manure spreader, chipping frozen cowshit off them in subzero weather. Not to mention getting up at four-thirty on the morning to go pull tit every single day of your life (and then ya gotta go milk the cows!).

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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I find it strange that they are not getting involved in methane production. Seems like a win-win especialy for factory farms as they could suplement there energy costs.

Living hard will take its toll...
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Not to mention getting up at four-thirty on the morning to go pull tit every single day of your life (and then ya gotta go milk the cows!).

Other than tradition why so early? Would milking them at say 6 AM make that much of a difference?

Living hard will take its toll...
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Other than tradition why so early? Would milking them at say 6 AM make that much of a difference?

Because they also need to be milked in the evening. Think 12 hour cycles 7 days a week. If they milk at 6pm they end up with no time for the family in the evening. On Sunday's many milk and then go to church thus they need to get it done in time.

The big operations have milking going on around the clock on 10-15 minute intervals rotating a large herd through a smaller number of milking stations.

Dairy farms usually make fair money, but they get no life.

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I find it strange that they are not getting involved in methane production. Seems like a win-win especialy for factory farms as they could suplement there energy costs.

Smithfield announced a few years ago that they were going to build a twenty million-dollar facility to convert pig poo into bio-diesel. I’m not sure it will even work, but I seriously don’t believe a twenty million-dollar facility will process that much. It’s about enough to build a facility about the size of a Home Depot.

Two of the counties in North Carolina have about 125,000 people. The hog waste is the equivalent to 3.7 million people and hog waste is a little more toxic. It’s going to be a big investment and from my experience anything that is good for the environment needs a higher return than normal to get corporate America to do it.

I honestly speak with some experience. Solar in many applications in California is now a no brainier. In one case I could get a company 100% financing, quite a hefty tax credit and a guarantee of a 10% energy saving based on today’s rates. Positive cash flow from day one and they wouldn’t buy it.

You are right, it is strange.

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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.

I apologize for taking this quote somewhat out of context, but why hope for technology to solve problems (in this case, the ones brought on by the massive and essentially unchecked scaling of hog operations) it created in the first place?

Part of the problem is that the solutions come about once the problem is well-entrenched, and if you believe the article, reversing the damage completely would litterally bankrupt the culprits. A little foresight and a more precautionary (rather than reactionary) approach to rapid development such as this would go a long way towards both ensuring progress, but without sacrificing so much.

Mallet (ever the optimist :rolleyes: )

Martin Mallet

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

www.malletoyster.com

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I find it strange that they are not getting involved in methane production. Seems like a win-win especialy for factory farms as they could suplement there energy costs.

. In one case I could get a company 100% financing, quite a hefty tax credit and a guarantee of a 10% energy saving based on today’s rates. Positive cash flow from day one and they wouldn’t buy it.

You are right, it is strange.

Really? How about for a restaurant located on a converted icebreaker or buoy tender? Call my people, we'll have lunch. You're beautiful, babe. Really.

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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Some thoughts and questions:

If small sustainable local pork producers are the way to go please explain how these folks will provide the pork and pork products to a nation of three hundred million people? (let's even set price aside).

Where in the New York City or Cleveland or Los Angeles or... areas will these small LOCAL pork producers be located?

Will local residents welcome these operations?

If a large operation is caught breaking the law (environmental or otherwise) they are fined (as was the operator cited in the RS piece). How will we police all the small operations, who might violate regulations?-- on a smaller scale, of course.

After we resolve these and other issues re: pork, we can move on to poultry and then beef then produce then.....

Seems to me that large so called industrial operations can exist with some smaller artisinal producers offering consumers a wide range of choice at different prices.

Larger (and smaller) operations will benefit from improved production methods as well as lesser negative environmental impact. in fact, it seems to me that environmental impact may even be lesser (more manageable) with pork production more centralized/larger among fewer operations than were pork production to be spread out among thousands of small local operations.

remember to stay true to the small and local is better philosophy we would have to take beef and poultry and dairy and produce production and spread them out to many many more less efficient and smaller operations throughout the entire US.

I don't know--but something just doesn't make sense here.

:wacko:

Edited by JohnL (log)
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I found this USDA website very informative in addressing some of your questions:

If small sustainable local pork producers are the way to go please explain how these folks will provide the pork and pork products to a nation of three hundred million people? (let's even set price aside).

The shift from the crop-livestock model to the centralized operations discussed in the Rolling Stone article is recent, and has only occured since the early 1990s. From 1990 to 1996 total pork production only increased 3% (reference) indicating that, by and large, this model was amply capable of supplying numbers.

Where in the New York City or Cleveland or Los Angeles or... areas will these small LOCAL pork producers be located?

Will local residents welcome these operations?

I don't think anybody in this thread has suggested that pork should never be transported more than x metres or anything, just that the concentration of large farms in small areas not historically used for hog production is a concern. I think the following picture is pretty revealing:

gallery_27988_3686_233.jpg

If a large operation is caught breaking the law (environmental or otherwise) they are fined (as was the operator cited in the RS piece). How will we police all the small operations, who might violate regulations?-- on a smaller scale, of course.

Smithfields was fined for an incredibly small proportions of the infractions which it commited. From the RS piece:

When the Environmental Protection Agency cited Smithfield for thousands of violations of the Clean Water Act, Luter responded by comparing what he claimed were the number of violations the company could theoretically have been charged with (2.5 million, by his calculation) to the number of documented violations up to that point (seventy-four). "A very, very small percent," he said.

Clearly enforcement is an issue under any system, perhaps encouraging a production model which is less likely to cause infractions in the first place is a better solution?

After we resolve these and other issues re: pork, we can move on to poultry and then beef then produce then.....

I hope so :wink:

Larger (and smaller) operations will benefit from improved production methods as well as lesser negative environmental impact. in fact, it seems to me that environmental impact may even be lesser (more manageable) with pork production more centralized/larger among fewer operations than were pork production to be spread out among thousands of small local operations.

This doesn't seem to be the case as pollution happens when you have an excess in a particular location. So it's not dependent on total waste (which could indeed be less if every farm was a "factory" farm, I don't know) but on what the immediate environment can handle. In fact, according to the USDA website linked above, large farms produce disproportionately more pollution than small ones (the largest 2 percent of U.S. hog farms control only 2 percent of land but produce 53 percent of the total excess nitrogen in hog manure and half the total excess phosphorus).

Edited by Mallet (log)

Martin Mallet

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

www.malletoyster.com

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  • 9 months later...

As a guy who has helped raise and process only one pig, I may not have much experience but it was a tremendous learning experience. I find the apparent conditions at Smithfield Farms appalling. Its an important discussion - here is another link for the Rolling Stone Magazine article that started the thread, I found the other one broken.

Peter Gamble aka "Peter the eater"

I just made a cornish game hen with chestnut stuffing. . .

Would you believe a pigeon stuffed with spam? . . .

Would you believe a rat filled with cough drops?

Moe Sizlack

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Pfiesteria, the cell from Hell!

Here in Eastern North Carolina lagoons are an ugly word with such a high concentration of hog raising. A little over ten years ago, lagoons broke their banks with disturbing regularity and polluted the Neuse River and one can assume, polluted to a lesser degree, the Pamlico Sound. A woman scientist who was studying pfiesteria was roundly scorned by the farmers and politicians when she theorized that the huge fish kills occuring every so often, were a result of the concentration of pig waste draining into the river. In fact, the Neuse river is considered the first example of a pfiesteria outbreak

Eventually, against all of the shrill cries of disbelief and despite the organized power of the giant pig farming industry she was proven right. Then the politicians and farmers said it wasn't really that important and a few lesions on the fish did not impact any human activity, and that the fish with such lesions could still be eaten!

Then she proved that fishermen were, in fact, getting very sick. (The sickness displays itself with similar symptoms to Alzeimhers and she herself suffered from it. Fortunately it seems curable with desisting completely from any contact with the water and the appropriate medications.)

The politicians then decided that a partial moratorium on building new lagoons was needed, giving the industry ten years to come up with a solution that would end the practice of storing pig waste. Use of existing lagoons would continue.

The technology that was proposed after ten years of research would have added approximately $1-2 per pound at retail, after the producers passed it on to the public. This was considered by the industry leaders as too much and the politicians, last year, extended the moratorium.

Note:It is my understanding that Lauch Faircloth®, the junior senator at that time, sat on the Senate Environmental committee. He was also a major owner of a hog raising facility. In fact, the main reason for his political activism and his party switch from Dem to Rep was his disagreement with the regulations that were imposed upon giant hog farmers

So here in North Carolina we are still up to our necks in pig sh#t and pfiesteria.

Edited by Ted Fairhead (log)
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. . . So here in North Carolina we are still up to our necks in pig sh#t and pfiesteria.

Thanks for that, Ted.

There is a bit of a pork crisis here in Nova Scotia - five years ago there were around 300 registered pork farms in the province and now there are around 2 dozen. Earlier this year the CBC reported:

The industry is overwhelmed by foreign competition, and local hog producers are losing $40 every time they ship a pig to market.

Everybody what good food for cheap!

Peter Gamble aka "Peter the eater"

I just made a cornish game hen with chestnut stuffing. . .

Would you believe a pigeon stuffed with spam? . . .

Would you believe a rat filled with cough drops?

Moe Sizlack

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Some thoughts and questions:

If small sustainable local pork producers are the way to go please explain how these folks will provide the pork and pork products to a nation of three hundred million people? (let's even set price aside).

Where in the New York City or Cleveland or Los Angeles or... areas will these small LOCAL pork producers be located?

Will local residents welcome these operations?

If a large operation is caught breaking the law (environmental or otherwise) they are fined (as was the operator cited in the RS piece). How will we police all the small operations, who might violate regulations?-- on a smaller scale, of course.

After we resolve these and other issues re: pork, we can move on to poultry and then beef then produce then.....

Seems to me that large so called industrial operations can exist with some smaller artisinal producers offering consumers a wide range of choice at different prices.

Larger (and smaller) operations will benefit from improved production methods as well as lesser negative environmental impact. in fact, it seems to me that environmental impact may even be lesser (more manageable) with pork production more centralized/larger among fewer operations than were  pork production to be spread out among thousands of small local operations.

remember to stay true to the small and local is better philosophy we would have to take beef and poultry and dairy and produce production and spread them out to many many more less efficient and smaller operations throughout the entire US.

I don't know--but something just doesn't make sense here.

:wacko:

Well, I guess we know now who is the evil industrial pig farmer amongst us... :biggrin: (I kid, I kid)

As much as I hate industrial animal manufacturers, you make a great point. I think there may be some middle ground though, where the big guys learn to impact the environment less, or spread out their operations a bit to dilute the effect. I'm sure they will lose some economies of scale, but the environment isn't free. Once we all realize that there are costs to us all by polluting the land, air, and water, we will be willing to pay slightly higher prices for products that don't do as much harm to the earth.

"It's better to burn out than to fade away"-Neil Young

"I think I hear a dingo eating your baby"-Bart Simpson

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Thanks for that, Ted.

There is a bit of a pork crisis here in Nova Scotia - five years ago there were around 300 registered pork farms in the province and now there are around 2 dozen. Earlier this year the CBC reported:

The industry is overwhelmed by foreign competition, and local hog producers are losing $40 every time they ship a pig to market.

Everybody what good food for cheap!

The CBC show "Land and Sea" did an episode on PEI pork production in August, which highlights the economic issues you mentionned watch it online .

Martin Mallet

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

www.malletoyster.com

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I don't think anybody in this thread has suggested that pork should never be transported more than x metres or anything, just that the concentration of large farms in small areas not historically used for hog production is a concern. I think the following picture is pretty revealing:

gallery_27988_3686_233.jpg

I find that map very revealing indeed.

What it says to me is that it's less about efficiency or low prices for the consumer and more about one pork processor's desire to become the Microsoft of hogs.

Note where most of the green dots are located. They're scattered all over our agricultural heartland, including states long known for pig raising and pork production. The butcher I patronize in the Reading Terminal Market won my business for life when I purchased from him the best ham I have ever eaten, produced by Van de Rose Farms in Iowa. He has switched to local Pennsylvania product mainly because he can't get a steady dependable supply from Van de Rose; those green dots may explain why. The decade covered by the map is too recent to capture my mother's older sister, who raised a few pigs for both home consumption and sale on a small farm (and I do mean small: her home was a trailer) outside Circleville, Kan., but I can't help but imagine that those dots do represent thousands of small farmers like her (she gave up and moved to Kansas City around the time I was 14).

By contrast, there's that big brown splotch covering eastern North Carolina, where the Luters' company is headquartered. Like the similar brown splotch that permanently resides over the Los Angeles Basin, this (at least on this map) is a visible manifestation of the concentration of too much of a certain kind of activity in a place that cannot absorb or process the byproducts.

Has the price of pork fallen substantially, or its availability risen, because of this shift from decentralized to highly concentrated production? I certainly see no evidence that either has occurred. So while JohnL may be correct in theory, it looks to this observer that in practice, the model doesn't apply here.

Sandy Smith, Exile on Oxford Circle, Philadelphia

"95% of success in life is showing up." --Woody Allen

My foodblogs: 1 | 2 | 3

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