Think twice about commercial pork

Pigs on the farm

Pigs on the farm

By Catherine Haug, Sept 18, 2015 (Photo, right, from Wikimedia Commons)

The photo, right, is how we imagine commercial pigs are raised, with room to roam and dig in the dirt or mud, find shade or sun, and receive adequate and appropriate food and water.

But the pork you buy in most grocery stores (especially the large grocery chains), or when you eat out, is not raised that way. I’ve included several videos below so you can see for yourself.

If you love pork, please buy from local farmers whose methods you trust, or look for Certified Humane (5) on the packaging. Also suggest your favorite restaurants source their pork from local farmers.

The videos

These videos can be very upsetting; I do not recommend sharing them with small children.

The first two videos involve Smithfield Foods, the world’s largest pork producer. However, other companies such as Seaboard Foods from Oklahoma (owns Prairie Fresh brand sold in Montana) and Prestage Farms from N. Carolina, the 3rd and 5th largest pork producers in the US, respectively. The third video is taken at Seaboard.

Spy Drones Expose Smithfield Foods Factory Farms

While this video is of several Smithfield Farms in North Carolina (2), most other commercial pork comes from farms with similar conditions known as Confinement Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs). Note that “Smithfield Foods, Inc. is a Chinese owned company and the world’s largest pork producer and processor, headquartered in Smithfield, Virginia.” (1)

I warn you, this video is disgusting.

Here’s a synopsis of the above video from Wikipedia (1):

The pigs are housed together in their thousands in identical barns with metal roofs, known as CAFOs (concentrated animal feeding operations). The floors of the buildings are slatted, allowing waste to be flushed into 30-feet-deep open-air pits the size of two football fields, referred to within the industry as lagoons. Smithfield says the lagoons contain an impervious liner made to withstand leakage. According to Jeff Tietz writing for Rolling Stone magazine, the waste – a mixture of excrement, urine, blood, afterbirths, stillborn pigs, drugs and other chemicals – overflows when it rains and the liners can be punctured by rocks. Smithfield attributes the pink color of the waste to the health of the lagoons, writing that the color is “a sign of bacteria doing what it should be doing. It’s indicative of lower odor and lower nutrient content.”

Undercover at Smithfield Foods (2012 Webby Award Winner)

The following related video, mainly about gestation crates, was made by the Humane Society (3).

Undercover at Seaboard

This video is from Mother Jones (6), and concerns confinement crates used for sows (similar to above video). Note that Seaboard owns the Prairie Fresh brand sold in Montana, including at our local Bigfork Harvest Foods.

You need a login to view the video. In case you don’t have a login, the video illustrates the well-known, widespread practice of confining gestating pigs for months on end in 2 foot by 7 foot crates that deny them room to move or even turn around; and the ghastly (though perfectly legal) custom of snipping off baby pigs’ tails without use of painkillers.

See also an article about Seaboard’s response to the Humane Society (7)

The Pig Picture

This is a two-part video from the Humane Farming Association (4). Part 1 compares a family farm that raises pigs humanely with the farms where most commercial pigs are raised.

Part 2 compares the methods used for factory-raised pork, including the antibiotics and other drugs used to grow pigs faster, with domesticated pigs raised in Sweden in a natural setting.


  4. part 1:; and part 2:
  6. Mother Jones: and
  7. Humane Society, concerning Seaboard Foods:


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