Raising hogs in tight quarters is by definition a filthy business; and so is slaughtering and packing them hourly by the thousands. North Carolina-based Smithfield does both — more so than any other company on the planet. Every year, the company raises 14 million hogs in its factories and slaughters 27 million. (Its Tar Hill facility alone kills and packs more than 30,000 every day.) It does so with all the style and grace of a hungry boar confronting a pile of fresh slop (not that Smithfield’s pigs ever taste anything but pharmaceutical-laden corn and soy products). Its environmental degradations are brazen (see Jeff Tietz’s celebrated 2006 Rolling Stone piece [PDF]); and its labor practices are so atrocious that they helped inspire a scathing Human Rights watch report. Last year, what became a global swine flu epidemic broke out near one of its vast facilities in Mexico; and it’s colonized Poland, where small farmers are organizing to fight the spread of its huge factories. Let’s hope their U.S. counterparts follow suit.
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