Food is not always something that you put in your mouth and eat!

A friend and colleague sent me a link to a series of videos that explain how Smithfield pork operates.  The videos are designed to take the “mystery” out of pork production and put on a happy face.  Murphy Brown a subsidiary of Smithfield is the star of the videos and their motto is “Our Families Feed Your Families”.

Of course this is being written from a cynical point of view, which I readily admit, but really now, after watching I had to say “are you serious”.   

The first thing that grabbed me was the sterile cleanliness of the hog houses that were shown.  One would think that the hogs never urinate or defecate or that when they lie down to rest on the pristine slated boards that they never lay in their own waste.  If this were true, I might even consider raising hogs for Smithfield because it looks like it’s the cleanest job out there besides working in a hospital operating room.  The last time that I was in an industrial hog house I had to run from it seeking outside fresh air before I lost my lunch. 

There appears to be a whole lot of love going around for the hogs that are raised and claims of each hog being treated as an “individual” makes one feel all warm and fuzzy.  A question comes to mind about that scenario.  How in the world can anyone treat tens-of-thousands of hogs individually?  Watching the videos, it was impossible remembering which hog was which.   I even tried choosing one hog, naming it, and following it in the hog house.  That was a futile effort.

Smithfield is all about making money and they should start a contest for viewers called “Name That Hog” and give a prize to the viewer who can follow their individual hog around in the video for the longest length of time.  Participants will surely buy more Smithfield products and that equals $$$$.

‘Dr, Temple Grandin, a world renowned animal handler speaks several times in the video’s and is used to enforce the thought that what she has outlined for Murphy Brown for best animal welfare practices is the way it all works.  Dr. Grandin ‘s ideas about animal welfare are exceptionally good and her intentions for Murphy Brown to adhere to her recommendations are sincere.  Her beliefs about animal welfare are summed up nicely by a quote from her “we’ve got to give those animals a decent life.  We owe the animal respect”.  I say “Amen”. 

Wouldn’t it be great if that were the way it all worked.  One farmer in the videos says that he’s never talked to a pig referring to the debate as to whether hogs are happier outdoors or are raised in total confinement.  One can normally discern a pig’s happiness by paying attention to the body language of the animal and its behavior.  Looking into the eyes of the hogs featured in the video shows a dead pan look coming back at you.  Does one really believe that hogs crammed into confined spaces that do nothing but eat, drink, and sleep are happy pigs?  Personally I like a pig with an attitude especially the little ones who like to run, jump, and play, and wag their funny little tails.

We can’t forget about the environmental impact of industrial hog production.  No way does Smithfield aka Murphy Brown have anything to do with all of that nonsense.  They are state of the art and the environment is very important to them.  Lovely pictures of wind turbines in the distance underscore Smithfield’s interests in water and energy environmental protection.  An even lovelier picture of the giant spray irrigation gun launching hog manure over fields planted with crops depicts their commitment.  What really caught my eye was the picture of a huge waste capture tank on one of the “farms”.  It reminded me of the huge tanks one sees at an oil storage facility where the giant tankers unload.

I know people who have experienced the spray irrigation gun approach and they say that the smell is so bad that they can’t open their windows or enjoy their outside decks, patios, or swimming pools because the stench from the hog manure is overwhelming.

Past disasters in North Carolina are indicative of what environmental impacts there are from industrial hog production.  Or better yet, let’s ask neighbors of the factory hog facilities all around the country what they think and feel about the subject.

Antibiotic abuse in animal production is not something that Smithfield should be linked to.  They use a holistic approach.  They only add antibiotics to all of their feed for the hogs for disease treatment, prevention, and control  Never are antibiotics used as growth promoters in their hogs. 

Some might argue about that declaration.  Doesn’t a continual diet of antibiotics for disease prevention equate to promoting growth because the animals aren’t wasting precious energy and calories fighting off disease?  If the hog isn’t wasting energy and calories isn’t it converting to meat faster? 

Another question one might raise about all of the antibiotics that are used for Smithfield hogs is the serious problem that we humans have associated with antibiotic resistance.  Animals are also experiencing the same problems and it is associated with the overuse of antibiotics in animal feeds.  The general understanding about this part of the mystery of industrial pork production (or any other species of animals) is that the overuse or over-feeding of antibiotics has created some mean bacteria resistant to treatment by antibiotics.  MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus ) comes to mind and I wonder if Smithfield has thought about this. 

There’s a lot of information out there on the subject of antibiotic resistance and public health, both scientific research facts and organizational positions.  Here are good places to start.

The Agriculture and Public Health Gateway
Center For A Livable Future
Keep Antibiotics Working

Eating Smithfield pork is in the videos and of course they want to promote their products.  I didn’t hear one person who gave testimonial tribute to the pork say one negative thing about eating it.  That is suspect and worthy of some thought.  Pictures of uniformly shaped pork chops on the grill caught my eye.  They reminded me of the paper doll cutouts that kids make from cardboard.  I’ve heard some people say that the pork tastes like cardboard too.  If we eat Smithfield pork we are all getting the same exact thing with no variance in portion or taste.  Smithfield prides itself for accomplishing this feat however I wonder if cardboard cutouts are really that great.

“There’s a lot more to it (hog production) than you might think” the video’s shout out to the viewer.  This is the one thing that I agree with.  After watching through Smithfield’s eyes all that is involved in industrialized confined hog production I say there is a whole lot more to it than one might think.  I wonder if Smithfield will enlighten us to the whole lot more than what we think.    

If you would like to become enlightened through Smithfield’s aka Murphy Brown’s eyes about indistrialized hog production, take a peek. Murphy Brown

Comments on: "Smithfield, The Best Neighbor One Could Have." (4)

  1. Anonymous said:

    Murphy Brown would like for people to believe that the way they raise hogs is wonderful. If secret video were taken in their hog houses a different picture would be shown.

    No way are the animals treated good they are just dollar signs and hog houses are filthy. I’ve raised hogs for Murphy Brown and have seen the real picture of how things are done.


  2. Smithfield Food’s representations of what it is like inside of the swine production facilities is pure “HOGWASH”. I have been inside some of these production facilities. From what I observed, there is nothing going inside that remotely resembles “farming” or the clean conditions shown by Smithfield in their video.

    What I observed inside these facilities is one big stinking mess. The most horrifying were the sow operations where these poor animals were confined in a way that only allowed them to stand up or lay down. In my opinion, what I observed was an unfit environment for any animal, pig or man.

    But there is a way to get the truth out to the public. I issue a challenge to the swine industry. Let’s put put that video to the truth test.

    I challenge the industry to let me select three counties in North Carolina where they produce swine. Next, allow me place all the names of all the swine facilities in those counties into a hat. Then, they can pick out three of those facilities in each of those counties to be be immediately visited–UNANNOUNCED. In the inspection group will be two industry representatives, two media reporters, two health professional, two environmentalists, and two animal welfare experts–of each of the two, they can pick one and I will pick one.

    There can be no restrictions on where the group can inspect or on the reporting of what is observed, including by video

    Of course, the industry will never agree to this. They will make excuse after excuse.

    Like I said at the beginning–HOGWASH!.

    Rick Dove
    Waterkeeper Alliance


  3. Alexis Koefoed/Soul Food Farm said:

    The first things that come to mind is this. If people actually could see how CAFO’s look and smell, they would probably stop eating meat for good. The whole system is a sham. There is no meaningful welfare for animals when confined and for all intents and purposes force feed. If the system demands that their meat producing practices be hidden from the public then the public needs to beware.
    Eat food from growers you know or can talk to. Eat meat that you can see the fields it grew on or talk to the farmer that raised it.
    Smithfield does not need any more of the publics money to keep raising animals in concentration “camps”.


  4. Maria Payan / PBCCG said:

    I echo the comments of all. Our local socially responsible farmers are the lifeblood of our communities. This is one reason Smithfield tries to convey the “image” of our caring farmers, who are the treasure of our communities.Our real family farmers raise these animals humanely. They supply us with food that we are proud to give our families, not only for the superior taste, or the sustainability of our planet, but because it is an investment in our communities. We know the money we spend with our local farmers stays here in our communities and the farmer stays independent, A quick fact that tells the true story of this factory system that is not only filthy and inhumane but is destroying our local economies and driving our farmers out of business. York County consumes 900 million dollars each year in food, yet only 4 million dollars goes to our York County farmers..sadly, that is less than 1/2 of 1 percent of what is spent. Our farmers care about our community…can’t say that about Smithfield!


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