Safe Meat and Factory Farming: A Contradiction in Terms

Safe Meat

A Letter to the Editor of the New York Times

To the Editor:

Mark Bittman wants to outlaw confined livestock feeding operations because, he says, they harm the environment, torture animals and make meat less safe (“A Food Manifesto for the Future,” column, Feb. 2).

We take issue with him on all three points.

Yes, there were a couple of highly publicized manure spills involving hog farms in the mid-1990s. But pork producers have made changes to assure that they won’t be repeated. If they are, producers are subject to fines up to $37,500 per day under tough new federal regulations.

Modern livestock housing is temperature-controlled, well lighted and well ventilated. It keeps animals safe and comfortable and protects them from predators and disease. That’s why the incidence of key food-borne illnesses in this country is going down, not up.

As for “sustainable” alternatives, perhaps they can produce enough meat for the wealthy, but not for a world population that is growing and demanding more protein.

Randy Spronk
Chairman, Environment Committee
National Pork Producers Council
Edgerton, Minn., Feb. 4, 2011

Source: New York Times Published: February 7, 2011


Swim for your lives

Dear Mr. Spronk:

Chairman of the National Pork Producers Council

Are you serious? Don’t you know most American’s have access to the internet and can see for themselves the horrific conditions of confined animal feed operations?

Ain’t ya ever heard of that site called YouTube? Geez, Mr., I hate to break it to you, but no one in their right mind believes a single word of your nutty letter.  Do you actually believe that people are stupid enough to actually believe you keep your little piggies all toasty and warm, well fed and tucked in at night?

I’m sorry, did you really say because of your farming practices you protect pigs from disease? Gee, call me stupid, but doesn’t CAFO cause more health problems for the pigs than if they were treated humanely? I coulda sworn that’s one of the main reasons you farmers are the nations largest consumers of antibiotics because extreme confinement causes stress and disease?

We all know what gestation crates are: cages of misery and pain where female pigs are kept continually pregnant in such extreme confinement it restricts their ability to ever stand up, move around or even turn over during their lives, causing huge open gaping sores.

Get your facts straight food-borne illnesses have increased due to CAFO. And if you think that humanely raised livestock is only for the elite, think again Mister, because people, regardless of their income, would rather have their health than a 99 cent breakfast with sausages at McBig Crappy Fast Food Restaurant. The world doesn’t want what you’re selling.

Remember that thingie called YouTube? Well, I found a perfect little video you should see: Please indulge me, you silly man! May I present you with the film Farm to Fridge – The Truth Behind Meat Production by Mercy for Animals


I also urge you to refute the evidence accumulated during an investigation, called Babe’s True Story produced by Mercy for Animals, of the industry you so vigorously defend. In it, esteemed reporter Morley Safer of 60 Minutes, is quoted as saying:

“Real-life ‘Babes’ see no sunlight in their limited lives, with no hay to lay on, no mud to roll in. The sows live in tiny cages, so narrow they can’t even turn around.”

Babe’s true story

Mother pigs (sows), spend most of their lives in individual “gestation” crates that are approximately seven-feet-long and two-feet-wide — too small for them to even turn around. Just before giving birth, they are moved to “farrowing” crates, which are not large enough for them to even turn around or build nests for their young.[1]

According to a March 2004 article in the Des Moines Register, “A pregnant sow’s biological need to build a nest before having her litter is so great that some sows confined in modern hog buildings will rub their snouts raw on the concrete floor while trying to satisfy the drive.”

The deprived environment produces neurotic coping behaviors such as repetitive bar biting, sham chewing (chewing nothing), and obsessively pressing on water bottles.[2,3]

After visiting several pig factory farms, investigator Lauren Ornelas wrote, “what will remain with me forever is the sound of desperate pigs banging their heads against immovable doors and their constant and repeated biting at the prison bars that held them captive. This, I now know, is a sign of mental collapse.”

Piglets are taken from their mothers when they are as young as 10 days old and packed into pens until they are separated to be raised for breeding or meat. They too are overcrowded and prone to stress-related behaviors, such as cannibalism and tail-biting.

Rather than give the animals more space and a better environment to prevent these problems, factory farmers chop off the piglets’ tails and often use pliers to break off the ends of their teeth.[4] Factory farmers also rip chunks out of the young animals’ ears for identification purposes and rip out the males’ testicles to prevent them from producing sexual pheremones[5]. All of these excruciating procedures are done without any use of painkillers.[6]

According to a November 10, 2002 article in the New York Times, “Sick pigs, being unproductive ‘production units’ are clubbed to death on the spot.” Other common methods used to kill sick pigs include: “thumping” (slamming animals’ heads against the floor until they die), drowning them with a hose, and standing on their necks.[7, 8, 9]

Approximately 100 million pigs are killed in the U.S. each year.[10] Cruelty at slaughterhouses is commonplace. An April 10, 2001 story in the Washington Post reports that, “Hogs…are dunked in tanks of hot water after they are stunned to soften the hides for skinning. As a result, a botched slaughter condemns some hogs to being scalded and drowned. Secret videotape from an Iowa pork plant shows hogs squealing and kicking as they are being lowered into the water.”

According to slaughter plant worker, Tommy Vladak, “After they left me, the hogs would go up a hundred-foot ramp to a tank where they’re dunked in 140° water…Water any hotter than that would take the meat right off their bones…There’s no way these animals can bleed out in the few minutes it takes to get up the ramp. By the time they hit the scalding tank, they’re still fully conscious and squealing. Happens all the time.” [11]


1 Kaufman, M. (2001, June). In pig farming, growing concern. The Washington Post, 18.
2 Zanella, A.J. & Duran, O. (2000, Nov. 16). Pig welfare during loading and transportation: a North American perspective. I Conferencia Virtual Internacional Sobre Qualidade de Carne Suina.
3 Kaufman, M. (2001, June). In pig farming, growing concern. The Washington Post, 18.
4 Luce, W. G. et al. (1995, Mar.). Managing the sow and litter. Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service.
5 Burcham, N. L. (1997, Nov.). Identify pigs by ear notching. Cooperative Extension Service, New Mexico State University.
6 Humane Society of the United States. Frequently asked questions about factory hog farms.
7 Israelsen, B. (2003, January 30). Circle Four (hog farm) workers quit, decry ‘inhumane’ conditions in Utah hog production factory. Salt Lake Tribune.
8 PETA. Pig Farm Cruelty Revealed.
9 Humane Farming Association. (2004). Petition for enforcement of South Dakota animal cruelty laws at Sun Prairie confinement hog factory—Rosebud Sioux Reservation.
10 USDA. Agricultural Statistics 2003.
11 Eisnitz. G. (1997). Slaughterhouse (p. 71).


An undercover investigation of Seaboard Farms, North Americas 3rd largest hog producer.


Mollie Morrissette


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Mollie Morrissette

Mollie Morrissette, the author of Poisoned Pets, is an animal food safety expert and consumer advisor. Help support her work by making a donation today.

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