by Marion Nestle

Currently browsing posts about: Pork

Jun 19 2023

Industry influence of the week: pork

A member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the professional association for Registered Dietitian Nutritionists, sent me this emailed announcement from Pork & Partners, a program of the National Pork Board Checkoff.

The accompanying message:

A Friend To All Foods + CPEUs for You!

Pork & Partners is an exciting new community for RDNs, tailored to help you meet your professional needs. Become a Partner to access free CPEU opportunities, fresh lean pork recipes, client resources, research, and so much more. Join today!

CPEUs are continuing professional education units, required for maintaining dietetic registration.   Dietitians usually pay for continuing education.

It’s so generous of the National Pork Board to offer free credits:

Introducing Pork & Partners, your new communityfocused on the needs of nutrition professionals. We’re here to provide free continuing education opportunities, exciting events, featured recipes, evidence-based handouts and peer-reviewed research. Join us to access resources and support to take your practice to the next level.

The Pork & Partners website emphasizes the nutrition, health, sustainability, and cleanliness of pig production.

I couldn’t find anything on the site about confinement of pregnant sows, the subject of a recent Supreme Court decision, or the many lawsuits over offensive odors from pig CAFOs.

Pork producers must not want dietitians talking about such things.  Hence: free CPEUs.

May 18 2023

The Supreme Court weighs in on animal rights

To the surprise of everyone as far as I can tell, the Supreme Court has upheld California’s ban on pork from states that allow pork producers to confine pregnant sows in gestation crates.

California, which consumes 13% of U.S. pork but imports 99% of it, said it would only permit import of pork from producers who give pregnant sows at least 24 square feet of space.

Gestation crates confine pregnant sows so tightly that all they can do is stand up and lie down.

I would not call myself an animal rights advocate, but having been pregnant myself a couple of times, I found myself deeply upset when I saw sows confined like that.

At the time, I was on the Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production.

We asked why they were doing this.  Answer: To keep the sow from crushing her piglets—and to make it easier to feed and clean the animals.

Fortunately, Bill Niman was also on the commission and whisked us off to one of the Niman Ranch farms where we could see sows, each in her own hoop tent, happily tending to piglets and rolling in mud when she felt like it.

Did the sows crush their piglets?  Not when they had ample room to move around ard were not stressed.  Yes, they didn’t produce quite as many piglets, but the meat tasted a lot better.

So I’m happy to see the pig crates disappear, which they will have to if anyone wants to sell pork in California.

This case is not really about animal rights though.  It is about states’ rights to make laws like this one.

The pork producers challenged California’s law.  But Justice Neil Gorsuch writing for the majority said:

California voters overwhelmingly endorsed the “ethical pork” law in 2018 and have the right to decide what products appear on store shelves…Companies that choose to sell products in various States must normally comply with the laws of those various States, “While the Constitution addresses many weighty issues, the type of pork chops California merchants may sell is not on that list.”

It’s amazing to have something good come out of this court.  Maybe pig crates will set a precedent.

Aug 22 2022

Food industry partnerships with nutritionists: conflicted interests?

Today’s Dietitian  sent this e-mail blast to members of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics on behalf of the National Pork Board, one of its sponsors.

The National Pork Board is seeking to build strong and meaningful partnerships with the Registered Dietitian profession. When it comes to up-to-date nutrition information, cooking techniques, continuing education and future collaborations, Pork is getting ready to give you the resources you value most. But first, we want to hear from you!

We invite you to take this survey for a chance to win one of fifteen $100 Amazon gift cards!*

The survey should take less than 15 minutes to complete. Your responses are voluntary and confidential. Responses will not be identified by individual but will be compiled and analyzed in aggregate.

Fifteen winners will be chosen at random to receive a $100 Amazon gift card. To be eligible, respondents must share their email address at the end of the survey.

Please click here to take the survey by August 22, 2022* Giveaway is subject to Official Rules.

If you want to know how meat trade associations encourage dietitians to promote their products, here’s an example.

Thanks to Dr. Lisa Young for alerting me to this one.

Dec 16 2019

Industry-funded study of the week: adding pork to a Mediterranean diet

I saw this tweet from Washington Post columnist Tamar Haspel:

I took the bait.

Science Daily summarized the study.

Incorporating 2-3 serves (250g) of fresh lean pork each week, the Mediterranean-Pork (Med-Pork) diet delivers cognitive benefits, while also catering to Western tastes, and ensuring much lower greenhouse-gas emissions than beef production.

Since the article gave the name of the lead author, Alexandra Wade, and the name of the study, MedPork, I had no trouble finding the actual study.

The study:  A Mediterranean Diet with Fresh, Lean Pork Improves Processing Speed and Mood: Cognitive Findings from the MedPork Randomised Controlled Trial.  Wade A, et al.  Nutrients 2019, 11, 1521; doi:10.3390/nu11071521.

Conclusion: “Compared to LF [low-fat diet], the MedPork intervention led to higher processing speed performance (p = 0.01) and emotional role functioning (p = 0.03).”

Funding: “This study was funded by the Pork Cooperative Research Centre (#3B-113). The Pork CRC had no role in the study design, implementation, analysis or interpretation of data. Acknowledgments…We would also like to acknowledge the following organisations for their generous contributions: Almond Board of Australia for the donation of almonds; Cobram Estate for the donation of Australian extra virgin olive oil; and Simplot Australia Pty Ltd. for the donation of legumes, tuna and salmon.”

Comment:  This study was so obviously industry-funded that Haspel could tell without even looking at it (the Science Daily article did not mention the funder—it should have).  What these investigators did was to add a bit more than half a pound of pork a week to an otherwise healthful diet; They found that people like this diet better than one that is low-fat.  Why would anyone do a study like this?  I can think of only one reason: to give pork a health aura so you will eat more of it, obviously.


A reader points out that this is not Wade et al’s only sponsored study.  Here are some  others:

Feb 6 2019

Mind-boggle of the week: USDA buys pork from JBS

The Washington Post reports that the USDA has committed about $5 million of bailout funds to buy 1.8 million pounds of pork products from the Brazilian meatpacker, JBS.

The bailout funds were supposed to help U.S. commodity producers who lost sales because of the tariff disputes with China.

JBS is the biggest meat seller in the U.S. It employs 73,000 people here.

Maybe the USDA thought it was an American company?

Globalization in action…

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Jul 10 2018

Pork Barrel Politics: Trade and Other Issues

Pork.  I love the term.  It reeks of politics.

Pork’s Trade Problem

I’ve been following the pork industry’s problem with the Trump Administration’s trade policies with much interest.

We imposed tariffs on steel and other such things.  Countries are retaliating by imposing their own tariffs—with pork high on the list.

Japan, China, and Mexico are our biggest markets for pork.  Oops.  They are now looking to Europe as the source.

The USDA’s livestock, dairy and poultry outlook report predicts a big drop in hog prices.

Pork’s With-Friends-Like-These Problem

And then there’s IRep. Steve King (R-Iowa).  In a Breitbart News radio interview, he says he doesn’t want Somalis working in meat-packing plants: “I don’t want people doing my pork that won’t eat it, let alone hope I go to hell for eating pork chops,” he concluded.

This follows a tweet he sent recently.

I suspect there are less confrontational and more effective ways to defend his home-state’s industry.  I wish them luck.

Pork’s Price-Fixing Problem

A lawsuit alleges that Hormel and other pork companies colluded to raise pork prices.  It was the lawsuit filed last week that attracted plenty of headlines.  They did this using Agri Stats, an information system accused of rigging the poultry industry.

Hormel Foods issued a statement denying the allegations:

Hormel Foods is a 127-year-old global branded food company with a reputation as one of the most respected companies in the food industry…We are confident that any allegations such as these are completely without merit. We intend to vigorously defend this lawsuit.

Pork’s Environmental Legal Problem

The courts are beginning to rule against Big Pork in cases where communities are complaining about odor and environmental contamination.  Smithfield, now owned by China, just lost a case.

Expect more such cases to follow.

May 24 2018

Pork (the meat, not goodies in the farm bill)

One of the industry newsletters I read regularly is, which occasionally collects articles on specific topics into “special editions.”  This one is about pork.

Still the most-consumed meat in the world, the pork sector is shifting quickly with global markets opening for processors on a weekly basis. In this special newsletter, we look at the lucrative Chinese market that everyone is looking to break into, as well as work being done to tackle diseases in the pork sector.

A note on the pork study: it elicited a tirade in the New Food Economy about how so much of nutrition research is correlational and says little about causation.  The writer singles out the pork study as one of three examples of possible misuse of statistics.

Feeding infants puréed pork and increased body length? Trick question. P = 0.001—so something really seems to be happening. But does greater body length in infants actually matter? We’ll let the scientists pursue this one on their own until they come up with something that’s not just statistically significant but meaningful…The point isn’t to prevent you from snacking on prunes and chocolate while you shovel puréed pork into the baby. Do it if you want to, and given the marvelous powers of the placebo effect, you’ll probably be happy you did. But stop treating studies like these as if they contain the truth.

The study, no surprise, was sponsored by NIH but also by the National Pork Board, among other industry groups.  The Pork Board issued a press release: “New Study Finds Pureed Pork Supports Infant Growth.”

Oct 12 2017

Global Meat News Special Edition: Pork!

I subscribe to to keep me up on the international meat business.  It has just published a collection of its articles—on pork.

Special Edition: Pork

Pork is the most eaten meat in world and maintaining the position is anything but easy. In this special newsletter, GlobalMeatNews explores the breakthroughs, scandals and market trends that continue to kept traders on their toes.