As you may know, I have this unique combination of a wicked sense of humor, and the training and 25 years of experience as a health care professional. Being in health care means I have a unique talent for fishing out information from reluctant and ignorant sources, as well as an insatiable curiosity for how things are related, what causes things. This make for interesting interpretation of current events, especially when it comes to food. I am considering calling this post the great porcine caper of 2013.
The rage these days in the business section of the paper and media is the impending sale of Smithfield Foods in North Carolina to Shang Wei of China. At the risk of sounding a bit pun-ish, it is all about pork. Why in the world would China who owns so much American debt, want to purchase America's leading pork producer for 4.7 billion in cash? Don't they own enough of our pork? Well, it seems that China has been in a Pork Panic for several years now. With the switch to industrial farming practices in China, and her ever increasing appetite for schweinfleisch as the Germans call it, it seems as if the People's Republic can not keep up with demand. Such a shortage was noted in 2011, that China fessed up to having a strategic pork reserve of 200,000 tons of frozen pork in case of emergencies. I guess this was for the party bosses, since China consumes about 100,000 tons of pork each day. My imagination went wild as to what the secret pork bunkers looked like, and what party boss you had to kiss up to to work in such a place. Did they only have Vegans guarding it?
With the advent of factory farming, and the largest porcine population on the planet, (Professor Higgens, I think there is a new diction exercise in there somewhere) disease was almost certain. The world witnessed a mass pig carcass inundation in the Xing feng area of the Jiang ping river near Shang Hai. In the last 10 years this region has become home to 7.7 million pigs per year, and seven slaughter houses, with all the waste going into the river. It is now black with a think algae slime on top, and locals report a continuous stream of dead pigs floating about on a daily basis, until the 16,000 pile up last March. The stench was unbearable, and cranes had to be brought in to fish the carcasses out. Apparently purchasing Smithfield will help this problem, but I wonder if the Chinese know they are getting a real nasty buy, as a recent report from Food and Water Watch notes. http://www.foodandwaterwatch.org/reports/the-trouble-with-smithfield-a-corporate-profile/ This is a great report if you are trying to loose weight, if you get the munchies, just read this and I promise your appetite will disappear. You will never, ever say again, "Happy as a Pig in S _ _ _." The big sticking point that is holding up the sale of Smithfield? Apparently the Chinese have banned a drug present in American factory farmed pork, ractopamine, that causes tremors, headaches, increased heart rates and blood pressure in humans, and makes the pigs lame and nervous. So comforting that the FDA deemed this drug safe for our food system. I just love it, China the land of tainted baby formula and 16,000 floating pig carcasses, of smog so bad people can not see 10 feet in front of them, and yet, no ractopamine in the pork please.
So what is the bacon lover to do? In June 2nd's show, I feature an interview with Graham Merriweather, producer of an excellent documentary called American Meat. This film shows in very simple non confrontational graphics and interviews that Americans do not have to have factory farms to meet their demands for meat. In fact, taking the lead from Joel Salatin from Poly Face Farms www.polyfacefarms.com, we have enough land to raise our meat sustainably, and employ lots of people
doing it. In the mean time, many consumer choices are available. Applegate Farms, www.applegate.com
available at Trader Joes and Whole Foods has delicious options for sustainably raised pork, and Niman's
Ranch Pork products, available on line http://store.nimanranch.com and at chains like Chipotle are also
delicious alternativesto ractopamine laced baby back ribs. And even Texas, again not what I would consider
the bastion of sustainability, especially with her Climate Change Denying Forgetful Gov and Senators
who think Global Warming is some sort of group hug in a barn with international visitors, has this amazing
program at Texas Tech University called the Sustainable Pork Farm Site.
The film is a joy to watch, and a stark contrast when compared to factory farmed pigs. Geeze, if they can have happy pigs in Texas, there is truly hope for the future of the world.
Finally if you are in need of a great summer read so you can feel good about eating bacon, read http://www.amazon.com/Righteous-Porkchop-Finding-Beyond-Factory/dp/B0064X7LOU. For me personally, I think pigs are really cute, and well I am a vegetarian, so I couldn't do it, BUT if you must eat pork, please try these options. The farmers are so delightful, and the pigs lead truly wonderful lives.
Make sure to tune in on June 2 @ 9 am Pacific Time, or listen to the podcast at http://www.blogtalkradio.com/real-food-empire/2013/06/02/american-meat-film-and-pork-in-the-headlines.