In Meat Wagon, we round up the latest outrages from the meat industry.
In a proper finale to an E. coli-tainted 2007, the USDA has issued a public-heath alert regarding 14,800 pounds of stolen hamburger meat down in Texas. Get this: the hot meat is “thought to be contaminated with E. coli bacteria.”
By my calculations, there is enough of the tainted stuff floating around Texas to produce no fewer than 74,000 quarter pounders. Texas Grist readers, don’t say you weren’t warned.
Meanwhile, up in Iowa, Hillary Clinton is getting flack for anointing a shill for the CAFO (concentrated animal feeding operation) industry as her co-chair of Rural Americans for Hillary.
Clinton’s been trying to express sensitivity about the concerns of small-scale farmers and people who live in smelling distance of Iowa’s many fetid hog factories. But after the candidate threw her lot with Joy Philippi, owner of a large hog-feeding operation and recent president of the National Pork Producers Council, many Iowans are skeptical, the Des Moines Register reports.
“I’m just very disappointed that Hillary would turn her back on us like this,” one small-scale farmer told the Register. “She says she’ll do one thing, yet when you surround yourself with people who are against the rest of us, we can’t expect anything good to happen on family farm issues.”
Clinton has thus far not publicly squared her CAFO link with her recent anti-CAFO rhetoric. She has let her Rural Americans for Hillary co-chair face the public on the issue — to puzzling effect. Here is the Register:
When Philippi was asked Thursday if she is personally opposed to [giving counties the power to regulate CAFOs and other] government regulations of CAFOs, she said: “That’s the opinion of some. I think that’s probably one of the misconceptions — I don’t mean to avoid your answer, but I don’t want something that’s going to be adversarial for the campaign.”
Meanwhile, pork-producing giant Smithfield Foods — the world’s No. 1 hog CAFO operator as well as the largest pork packer — has come to terms with the union at its Sioux City, Iowa, meatpacking plant.
(Sioux City lies in Woodbury County, one of the nation’s local-food capitals. Smithfield’s Sioux City plant is the one that so impressed me with its vast and malodorous ugliness when I visited there last summer. You can see a photo of it in my thrilling slide show — it’s the second photo).
Evidently, the United Food and Commercial Workers Union local got a good deal for the workers at the plant. That’s the good news. The bad news is that the union chief saw fit to denounce Smithfield’s labor practices at its biggest plant — indeed, the biggest hog-processing plant in the world.
Here’s what UFCW Local 1142 President Warren Baker told BusinessWire:
The negotiations were contentious. There’s always give and take, but, in the end, we arrived at a fair settlement. What’s puzzling about Smithfield is how it engages responsibly in the bargaining process with workers here in Sioux City, but at its Tar Heel, North Carolina, plant the company is anything but responsible in the way it treats workers. It’s really a Jekyll and Hyde situation with Smithfield, and it makes people working for them very concerned.