by Marion Nestle

Currently browsing posts about: Pork

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.

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May 24 2018

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

One of the industry newsletters I read regularly is GlobalMeatNews.com, 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.”

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Oct 12 2017

Global Meat News Special Edition: Pork!

I subscribe to GlobalMeatNews.com 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.

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May 15 2015

Weekend reading: Barry Estabrook’s Pig Tales

Barry Estabrook.  Pig Tales: An Omnivore’s Quest for Sustainable Meat.  WW Norton, 2015.

I was happy to be asked to blurb this one.  It’s a great read:

Estabrook tells two powerful stories here.  The first is about the appalling ways in which Big Pig raises animals, pollutes the environment, and uses the political system to avoid and fight regulation.  The second is about how skilled animal husbandry and respect for the intelligence of pigs produces calmer animals, more delicious meat, and a far more satisfying life for farmers and pigs alike.  Pig Tales is beautifully written.  It is also deeply touching.

Apr 10 2009

Is free-range pork more contaminated than industrial pork?

My e-mail inbox is flooded with copies of an op-ed from today’s New York Times arguing that pigs running around outside have “higher rates” of Salmonella, toxoplasma, and, most alarming, trichina than pigs raised in factory farms. The writer,  James McWilliams, is a prize-winning historian at Texas State San Marcos whose forthcoming book is about the dangers of the locavore movement to the future of food.

I put “higher rates” in quotation marks because that is not what the study measured.  The study on which McWilliams based his op-ed is published in Foodborne Pathogens and Disease. The investigators actually measured “seropositivity” (antibodies) in the pigs’ blood.  But the presence of antibodies does not necessarily mean that the animals – or their meat – are infected.  It means that the free-range pigs were exposed to the organisms at some point and developed immunity to them.  The industrial pigs were not exposed and did not develop immunity to these microorganisms.  But you would never know that from reading the op-ed.   How come?

Guess who paid for the study?  The National Pork Board, of course.

The Center for a Livable Future at Johns Hopkins has much to say about all this.  My point, as always, is that sponsored studies are invariably designed in ways that produce results favorable to the sponsor.    In this case, the sponsor represents industrial pork producers.

April 14 update:  the editors of the New York Times have added a note to the electronic version of Professor McWilliams’ op-ed pointing out the National Pork Board sponsorship of the study on which he based his piece.  And McWilliams rebuts arguments against his piece on the Atlantic Food Channel, while conceding that he may have gotten the science wrong.