My deep dive on the pork industry for FoodPrint looks at the substantial political power that the pork industry has gained at the state and federal levels, and has used that power to trample the health, safety, and human rights of communities from the Midwest to the South to grow their own profits.
Published at FoodPrint, October 2020
For meat eaters, bacon is a delicious staple that finds a home on breakfast, lunch and dinner plates. Yet that crispy, salty goodness hides some ugly truths about the pork industry. Those truths were starkly revealed in April 2020 when pork processing plants temporarily shut down to slow the spread of COVID-19. One of the largest to close, a Sioux Falls, South Dakota Smithfield plant, waited more than three weeks to do so, by which time there were at least 644 positive cases and one death reported, and the town of Sioux Falls had become the single largest virus hot spot in the nation.
The closure of the Sioux Falls plant and others had ripple effects on farms and supermarkets across the country: with nowhere to send their mature hog for processing and no more space in their barns, hog farmers saw their prices collapse and chose to euthanize their animals instead, horrifying people with the cruelty and waste. As sausage and pork prices spiked at grocery stores and lines grew at food banks, Smithfield warned of potential long-term shortages.
When President Donald J. Trump signed an executive order to reopen the plants — much too quickly, according to public health experts, and with no mandated worker protections — things got even worse: by late June, just two months after the order, over 27,000 meatpacking plant workers had tested positive for COVID-19 and nearly 100 had died, while infection rates in surrounding rural communities were five times higher than the rest of rural America. Meanwhile, there wasn’t a problem with US pork supply at all: in April, the pork industry exported a record amount of pork to China.
…Download The FoodPrint of Pork report…