According to Rolling Stone, America’s top pork producer churns out a sea of waste that has destroyed rivers, killed millions of fish and generated one of the largest fines in EPA history.
Welcome to the dark side of the other white meat.
Smithfield Foods, the largest and most profitable pork processor in the world, killed 27 million hogs last year.
That’s a number worth considering.
A slaughter-weight hog is fifty percent heavier than a person.
The logistical challenge of processing that many pigs each year is roughly equivalent to butchering and boxing the entire human populations of New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston, Philadelphia, Phoenix, San Antonio, San Diego, Dallas, San Jose, Detroit, Indianapolis, Jacksonville, San Francisco, Columbus, Austin, Memphis, Baltimore, Fort Worth, Charlotte, El Paso, Milwaukee, Seattle, Boston, Denver, Louisville, Washington, D.C., Nashville, Las Vegas, Portland, Oklahoma City and Tucson.
Smithfield Foods actually faces a more difficult task than transmogrifying the populations of America’s thirty-two largest cities into edible packages of meat.
Hogs produce three times more excrement than human beings do. The 500,000 pigs at a single Smithfield subsidiary in Utah generate more fecal matter each year than the 1.5 million inhabitants of Manhattan.
The best estimates put Smithfield’s total waste discharge at 26 million tons a year. That would fill four Yankee Stadiums.
So prodigious is its fecal waste, however, that if the company treated its effluvia as big-city governments do — even if it came marginally close to that standard — it would lose money.
So, many of its contractors allow great volumes of waste to run out of their slope-floored barns and sit blithely in the open, untreated, where the elements break it down and gravity pulls it into groundwater and river systems