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  • Annmarie Throckmorton, M.A.

Pity The Poor Pig

Today I learned that the American company Smithfield Foods was sold to a Chinese company in 2013. Why is this problematic for me personally? Because China has a long history of animal abuse and tainted food. Mismanagement of pathogens such as are in night soil fertilizers, environmentally destructive infrastructure, unresolved human abuse with no known record of animal abuse prevention, and the Asian folk practice of beating animals (dogs, cats, etc.) just before butchering them because they enjoy the taste of adrenaline in tortured meat, are all reasons for dismay at Chinese ownership of the largest pork processor in the United States.

America was just beginning to realize that abused animals do not make for decent food, and we had become more humane in our animal husbandry practices. Will that all slide into barbarism? I have lost my appetite. In the future I will eat only locally produced pork. I will make the effort to find it and I will pay the extra cost. I pity the poor pig.

"Virginia-based Smithfield Foods* is the world’s largest hog farmer and pork processor, vending packaged meat products in the U.S. under a variety of brand names such as Smithfield, Eckrich, Farmland, Armour, John Morrell, Kretschmar, Curly’s, Carando, Cook’s, Margherita, Gwaltney, and Healthy Ones.

“In September 2013 Smithfield Foods was acquired by China’s biggest meat processor, Shuanghui International Holdings, in the largest acquisition ever of a U.S. company by a Chinese one — a deal that raised concerns in America about a Chinese food company’s controlling a major U.S. meat supplier.

“However, we could find no verification for the statement made in the item quoted above that henceforth, Smithfield “hogs will still be raised here [in the U.S.], but slaughtered and packaged for sale [in China] before being sent back here,” labeled simply “Raised in the U.S.A.” under FDA regulations. (The sale of domestic and imported meat in the U.S. is regulated by the Department of Agriculture, not the Food and Drug Administration.)

"The major factor behind Shuanghui’s acquisition of Smithfield was to secure a supply of pork to feed rising demand in China (a country that is now the world’s biggest pork market), not to export pork products from China to the U.S.

“The Chinese company is looking to reduce supply uncertainties that come along with the scarcity of livestock feed in order to be able meet the rising demand [for pork] at home. It also aims to reduce quality concerns at the same time by selling “American” meat to consumers in China.

“Pork is the most popular meat in China as it forms more than three-fourths of total meat consumption in the country. The nation produced more than half the world’s total pork in 2012, while consumers spent around $183 billion consuming it. Moreover, demand for the meat is only rising as disposable incomes of more than 1.3 billion people in China are rising.

“A Chinese acquisition of a U.S. processor doesn’t mean that Americans will be eating crock Chinese cuts. The trade in pork is all the other way, and so is the technology transfer that Chinese firms crave as they seek to consolidate a fragmented, poorly run industry. Shuanghui isn’t looking to offload Chinese pork in Los Angeles. What it wants is to become the leading player in China."

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Caption: Pity The Poor Pig

by Annmarie Throckmorton 2018

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