Monday, January 4, 2010

Pass (on) the Bacon?

In the winter of 2005, pregnant with my third child, my family and I decided to pack up and sell our home in NC and move back to St. Louis, MO to live by all of our family. While the move didn't work out for us... it was a year of learning about what kind of people we really are and what we wanted for the future.

Our year of living in St. Louis was coming to a close and I was looking forward to getting back home. And at the time, I had a subscription to Rolling Stone which was also coming to an end as I chose to not renew any of my magazine subscriptions. It was reading Rolling Stone that I read one of the most horrible things that stayed with me and changed my way of thinking. The article starts off...

"Smithfield Foods, the largest and most profitable pork processor in the world, killed 27 million hogs last year. That's a number worth considering. A slaughter-weight hog is fifty percent heavier than a person. The logistical challenge of processing that many pigs each year is roughly equivalent to butchering and boxing the entire human populations of New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston, Philadelphia, Phoenix, San Antonio, San Diego, Dallas, San Jose, Detroit, Indianapolis, Jacksonville, San Francisco, Columbus, Austin, Memphis, Baltimore, Fort Worth, Charlotte, El Paso, Milwaukee, Seattle, Boston, Denver, Louisville, Washington, D.C., Nashville, Las Vegas, Portland, Oklahoma City and Tucson."

While somewhat unbelievable... that, honestly, wasn't the biggest problem for me. As I got further into the article... I learned about all of the drugs they pump the pigs with just to keep them alive long enough to slaughter them (fyi... as long as a pig can move from place to place they can be slaughtered for consumption no matter their health)... then I read about the lagoons. The places where the pig excrement is "stored"... just being near or even downwind from them can make you sick. I, of course, made the connection to why there was such an issue after Hurricane Floyd back in 1999. I had known that pigs washed up on the beaches, that swimming and fishing were prohibited... but after reading this article... it made complete sense. All of the rain dropped by Floyd had flooded all of these lagoons... warehouses of pigs... and flushed it all to the ocean. I thought,
"How can I support a business that pollutes our rivers, streams, AND the ocean I swim in and pumps my food full of drugs I wouldn't even think about taking??"

The article is disgusting... eye-opening... and 100 million percent worth the read. Boss Hog: Pork's Dirty Secret

(update 1-17-2011:  It seems as though Rolling Stone no longer has this article available online. Through some research, I found the article here:  Boss Hog)

I read the article several times... made copies to give to people we knew... and right then and there made the commitment to not buy anything from Smithfield. It was a difficult undertaking for a girl that loves BLT's. I read labels trying to figure out where the pork I was buying came from. I asked the butcher at the local meat market where their pork came from... he was confused by my prodding until I explained to him what I read and then he responded with "Iowa, but they all do it the same."

"They ALL do it the same??" Now the task was even bigger... I didn't feel comfortable eating (or feeding my family) ANY of the pork products sold. No more Johnsonville, no more Harris Teeter, no more conventionally raised pork. I made the conscious decision to only buy organic, and cruelty free bacon and sausage. Sometimes I couldn't buy it... it was OK with me... because I knew that I couldn't and wouldn't support that kind of treatment-- to animals or the environment.

Today, these thoughts have shifted to something bigger for me... I'll share that soon.

Here's what I know: My food choices affect the world I live in... including the people and animals we share it with.