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Hogwash in Duplin County

It would take giant space robots with grappling hooks to pull me away from pork eating. As a matter of fact, I’m putting in my order now for a pasture-raised pig share from Farmer’s Table in Vergennes, VT. Making sure to order enough this year so that I won’t, in a moment of weakness, resort to the Smithfield product when a pulled-pork or pernil craving kicks in.

Smithfield is a big pork “integrator” in Duplin Country, NC — the center of industrial pig farming in the U.S., with a pig population about the same size as the human population of New York City — contracting with local farmers to feed them in CAFOs (confined animal feeding operations) and somehow dispose of their abundant waste (pigs produce four times as much crap as people do), either by spraying it onto surrounding fields or letting it stew in waste lagoons prone to leakage and overflowing.

The problems there aren’t new, as this Pulitzer Prize-winning story from 1995 attests. But the Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production has recently focused attention on improving animal and human conditions in the area, and a grassroots group called REACH (Rural Empowerment Association for Community Help) is trying to promote more sustainable, locally owned and controlled agricultural enterprise, as well as raise awareness about health issues that plague the mostly low-income rural families that live downwind and downstream from the pig factories.

This video offers a good look at things on the ground there.

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