Still Eating Factory Produced Pork?
Modern industrial farming has come a long way since Farmer Ken down the road kept a sow and a few pigs to sell each fall. Pork has become one of the cheapest meats in N. America these past few years. Why has that happened? Efficiency.
There is a problem when animals become a cog in that efficient delivery of meat. Pigs are thinking animals. For a few years the pot bellied Asian pig was a status pet. Pigs are still used in some European countries to hunt for truffles. The point I'm trying to make is -- these animals are about as smart as dogs.Would we treat a dog this way?
Johnson describes a barn full of sows with piglets, each sow "confined by a metal crate to an area about two and a half by seven feet. The sows filled their cages. They had a foot or two in which to move forward or back, and enough room to lie down but not enough to turn around."
He later describes the gestation room, with 700 sows:
"The hogs stood in tight formation, row upon row stretching out to the end of the building, under dusty yellowish lights. Crates held the pigs in line with their noses next to a water trough and their tails over a slatted floor. The animals eat where they stand and deposit their dung at the other end of the crate. The pig's own feet, or a shot with a hose, sends the waste through the cracks in the floor."
When I was a child on a farm, we usually raised a couple of piglets each year, one to sell and one to slaughter. Our pigs kept the hay inside their shelter clean and never defacated inside. And yes, it seemed like a terrible betrayal when they were killed in October. They screamed and protested.
Johnson then visits a pork industry conference where he learns of a problem for the meat industry, acid in pork, causing pale, soft, exudative meat (PSE) that has a bad taste. PSE is a result of stress -- the stress, for intelligent animals, of living confined in crates. Another problem is that of lameness; sows go lame from standing their whole lives on concrete floors.
Johnson writes, "The solution to this problem of soundness, as far as those at Monsanto or the Swine Improvement Conference are concerned, is to breed 'better' pigs - pigs that can stand on a 2' x 7' rectangle of concrete all their lives without going lame or insane with boredom. And if genetic modification doesn't work, technology often can provide a mechanical solution. Swine Robotics, for instance, has developed a device that removes dead animals from crates -- a contraption that looks like a hand truck with a power winch. This 'boar buzzard' eliminates the problems of poor employee morale and back injuries. On the PSE front, scientists have found they can reduce the amount of pale, soft, exudative meat by taking pigs off their feed eighteen hours before slaughter. The hungry pigs burn off their glycogen reserves, and without glycogen they do not produce lactic acid, no matter how stressed they are."
There are organically and humanely raised pigs out there. If you make the decision to eat pork, then shouldn't you get the highest and best quality possible?