Pork Wars

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The first wrongful-death lawsuit in the H1N1 flu outbreak has been filed by Texas paramedic Steven Trunnell on behalf of his late wife, the first U.S. resident to die of virus-related complications. Trunnell charges a Smithfield Foods’factory farm in Mexico with spreading the disease. Click here for full details from TIME magazine.


On Thursday, Smithfield President and CEO C. Larry Pope issued a letter to his employees, stating tests by the Mexican government “have confirmed that no virus, including the human strain of A(H1N1) influenza, is present in the pig herd at Granjas Carroll de Mexico (GCM), our joint venture farm in Veracruz, Mexico.” But as the TIME article reveals, “It’s not clear what test Mexican authorities used; only blood tests for antibodies can confirm the virus.”

Smithfield’s PR campaign has put celebrity chef Paula Deen front and center. A spokesperson for the company, she is calling on Americans to bring home the bacon.

“You know, y’all, the Secretary of Agriculture has said it’s safe to eat pork,” Deen says in a Smithfield-issued statement. “You can eat all the pork you want. You are not going to catch the flu from eating pork.” She’s correct about virus transmission, but that folksy quote makes my eyes bleed.

As the New York Times reported in Goliath of the Hog World, Smithfield handles 19 million hogs per year. Reporter David Barboza called the company’s Tar Heel, NC, plant “an efficient killing machine,” where “squealing hogs funnel into an area where they are electrocuted, stabbed in the jugular, then tied, lifted and carried on a winding journey through the plant.”

Barboza’s article further explored Smithfield’s past health and safety violations, how the company (already the world’s largest pork producer) is attempting to dominate the marketplace through consolidation, and how small farmers are fighting to protect humanely raised, antibiotic-free and organic pork.

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