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The Globalization of US Pork

May 31, 2013

shuanghui_2576622bIn a fascinating article last week, Tom Philpott at Mother Jones asked “Is the US About to Become One Big Factory Farm for China?” At issue is the proposed acquisition of Smithfield Foods by Shuanghui International. As Chinese demand for meat, especially pork, continues to rise, the Chinese government appears to have abandoned its efforts to ensure domestic self-sufficiency. Instead, it’s outsourcing pig production to the United States. For Smithfield, the deal is part of a broader strategy to offset declining demand for meat from American consumers. Seems like a win-win.

But as Philpott notes, “In an ironic twist, China appears to be taking advantage of lax environmental and labor standards in the US to supply its citizens with something it can’t get enough of. Industrial pork: the iPhone’s culinary mirror image.”

Convention pig production in the United States is an incredibly polluting industry. Again, quoting Philpott, the US pork industry “pollutes water as a matter of course,  hollows out the rural areas on which it alights, relies heavily on routine antibiotic use, recently inspired a government watchdog group to lament “egregious” violations of food safety and animal welfare code in slaughterhouses, and uh, has an explosive manure foam problem.

Hardly our shining hour. One wonders what it portends.


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