Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Mass Pollution & Illegal Pig Slaughtering Compliments of Smithfield Foods

By Marcie Barnes

**See update/edit after 4th paragraph regarding pig slaughter method.**

I'm not going to get into a lot of detail about why I've never been able to stomach pork very well. And I'm not going to preach to those of you who eat it. Instead I'm going to ask you to carefully consider what it is that you are putting in your mouth and how your dollars spent on this factory-farmed product impact the environment and your health.

2006 article from Rolling Stone sums up all of Smithfield Foods' dirty little secrets quite well. The subtitle tells us that "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."

And as I suspected, the Chairman of Smithfield Foods, according to the article, is reaping the benefits in his "multimillion-dollar condo on Park Avenue in Manhattan and conveys himself about the planet in a corporate jet and a private yacht." (The article also notes that "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.")

If that's not disturbing enough, I realized after watching the documentary film
Food, Inc. (please follow that link and search for showtimes near you) that they are slaughtering their pigs in an illegal manner -- at least at the Tar Heel, NC slaughterhouse where a worker filmed undercover footage for the documentary. (The Tar Heel facility is the largest slaughterhouse in the world, by the way). What appeared to be groups of a dozen or so pigs crushed to death by machine (which was the same observation made in this movie review) is a far cry from the terms of the Humane Slaughter Act of 1958.

**Update: I just got off the phone with a USDA official here in NC and he said they are not crushing the pigs, but rather containing them in a CO2 "tank" and it's the CO2 that kills them, although he admits it still "hurts" (he's apparently accidently gotten a lungful before). He also said there is an inspector whose sole job is "humane slaughtering" - he inspects that facility - asked to speak to him as well - and I am waiting for his call. Stay tuned.** 28JUL09

From the Wikipedia entry: "According to the law, animals should be stunned into unconsciousness prior to their slaughter to ensure a quick, relatively painless death." The pigs in the footage I saw were clearly, awake, walking, and "terrified" according to movie reviewer Brian Clark Howard.

Just last year, an undercover People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals
(PETA) investigator filmed a Sampson County employee mistreating pigs at another slaughterhouse. Consequently, the worker was charged with 6 counts of animal cruelty. What, I wonder, is the penalty for crushing approximately 35,000 pigs to death every day, possibly since 1992?

What you can do: Stop purchasing factory-farmed meat. This is found in fast food, most restaurants, and in most of the packaged meats in grocery stores. Instead, vote with your dollars by supporting local farmers who treat their livestock humanely. I just found this local, grass-fed ground beef at WholeFoods for $4.99/lb - which meant my husband's burger meat cost a whopping $1.75:


If you still think it's too expensive, simply cut your meat consumption by 1/3 or more and you'll be doing your body and the environment a big favor.

From the USDA's guidelines: "The gas must be administered in a way that produces surgical anesthesia quickly and calmly, with a minimum of excitement and discomfort to the animals"

Is that really what is happening? Send messages to:
heir rep, Paula Deen: @Paula_Deen (on twitter)
ETA: (The Smithfield plant is on Hwy 87W in Tar Heel, NC)

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

HFCS at WholeFoods? Say it Ain't So!

By Marcie Barnes

One of the things I really like about Whole Foods and other stores like it is the fact that I don't have to do so much label-reading.

I admit after some searching I find I am not the first person to make this discovery. But how many also had the general impression that there were no HFCS (High-fructose corn syrup) products at Whole Foods?

I knew that Earth Fare had a non-HFCS policy. Unfortunately, I assumed Whole Foods did as well. A huge benefit, for me at least, in shopping in these earth and health-friendly stores is the comfort in knowing they choose to sell products good for us, and the planet.

I could not find such a policy on Whole Foods' site, someone please point me there if there is one. I did find this tweet, however, that explains "
none of our 365 products contain HFCS and only a small % of our branded products do, unlike in other stores."

Other tweets explain that "
HFCS isn't on our unacceptable ingredient list, but you'll still find it's the exception, not the convention in our stores."

Here is what I found:


This is a shrimp tray, with cocktail sauce included. The HFCS (and more corn syrup later) is in the sauce. What baffles me, in part, is why it seems that the cocktail sauce was portioned out from a bottled shelf brand that has HFCS, when there is an organic 365 brand available without HFCS. Furthermore, I think it might be even simpler (and cheaper) for the kitchen to mix some 365 organic ketchup with a little grated horseradish, and voila! Cocktail sauce.

Don't get me wrong, I love Whole Foods (I was actually there a couple days ago because I was in a bad mood and being there cheers me up :)) I just find it odd that they (my local Cary, NC store, by the way) would package up some shrimp with HFCS sauce and showcase it in the seafood section.

I was actually curious about Whole Foods non-top ranking in Greenpeace's recent Seafood Scorecard report. More on that coming up. Stay tuned.

What do you think? Should HFCS be on the unacceptable list at Whole Foods? I think so, especially considering recent news regarding mercury in HFCS.

Main photo credit goes to boeke on Flicker. Shrimp photo is mine.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Greenpeace's Grocery Store Scorecard Released & End of the Line Widget

By Marcie Barnes

Share photos on twitter with Twitpic <-------Please click to see the scorecard. Please choose the store closest to the top of the list that is near you and shop there. Avoid the red ones like the plague (really).

This is from @greenpeaceusa's "Carting Away the Oceans: How Grocery Stores are Emptying the Seas" (article with link to full report).

Also, please use this widget to look up what seafood is safe to eat (or not) and why:

Thank You. I <3><(({°> ><(({°> ><(({°> ><(({°> ><(({°>