Smithfield Foods, Inc. Premium Standard Farms, and their predecessor entities have operated the largest hog production factories in the world, and they have done so in an extremely irresponsible fashion. They have intentionally operated their hog production businesses in such a way that they have spilled or discharged millions of gallons of hog urine and manure into the Nation’s streams, rivers, and creeks.1 They have failed to make repairs and allowed discharges to continue, even where the cost of repairs is minor.
Smithfield was fined $12.6 million dollars in 1997 for 6,900 violations of the Clean Water Act2. Continental Grain and Premium Standard Farms, now merged or otherwise absorbed into Smithfield Foods, have been the subject of numerous enforcement actions by the State of Missouri and the Federal Government as a result of the air and water pollution that they allowed to be discharged from their hog production factories in northern Missouri. In fact, Smithfield is one of the most fined polluter in the history of both the states of Virginia and Missouri.
Instead of making improvements to their facilities that would reduce the odor and discharges of waste, they have chosen to give their top executives millions of dollars in bonuses.
Raising the huge number of hogs needed to obtain the necessary economies of scale that makes their businesses profitable requires these corporations to place the hogs in confinement buildings, never allowing them to see the light of day. The people that work in these confinement buildings become desensitized to the fact that they are working with living creatures. There are documented cases of small piglets being killed by slamming them against a wall3. There are many other examples of animal abuse perpetrated in these hog production factories.
Because there are so many hogs confined in a small space, disease is rampant. These companies choose to use prolific amounts of antibiotics, which makes them less effective, allowing the spread of bacterial infections amongst humans that are resistant to treatment with antibiotics.
These companies also engage in heavy-handed legal tactics, such as Smithfield suing the state of lowa in order to strike down the state’s ban on corporate ownership of farms. Smithfield also is aggressively anti-worker4, even suing the United Food and Commercial Workers as it tried to unionize Smithfield’s hog workers in North Carolina.
An internal Smithfield memo admits that their litigation strategy in responding to lawsuits over the odor from the hog operations is “Chinese water torture.” In the same memo, Smithfield admitted to spending approximately $2.5 million in attorney fees to defeat just one neighbor’s nuisance lawsuit rather than devoting the funds to reducing the offensive odors.
Although these corporations claim they want to be good neighbors to the unfortunate folks who live in the vicinity of the hog production factories, they make their neighbors prisoners in their own homes. Thousands of people are unable to venture outside due to the overwhelming, nausea-producing stench coming from the hog buildings, manure lagoons and land application fields.
All this is the result of corporate policy designed to concentrate the profits from hog production in the coffers of just a few corporate giants, namely Smithfield’s Paul Fribourg and Joe Luter, both of whom live in multi-million dollar condominiums located on 5th Avenue in New York.
1 Steve Wing. Concentrated Swine Feeding Operation and Public Health: A Review of Occupational and Community Health Effects. Environmental Health Perspectives. Volume 108, Number 8 (August 2000).
2 Jeff Tietz. Boss Hog. America’s top pork producer churns out a sea of waste that has destroyed rivers, killed millions of fish and generated one of the largest fines in EPA history. Welcome to the dark side of the other white meat. Rolling Stone. 14 Dec 2006.
3 Kathy Preston. Help Stop Cruelty to Animals. HuggingtonPost.com. 13 Apr 2009. web. 29 Apr 2009.
4 John Ikerd. Top Ten Reasons for rural communities to be concerned about large-scale, corporate hog operations. web.missouri.edu. 1 Dec 2008. Web. 29 Apr 2008.