And for all those Little Piggies, Life is Getting Worse
Most of the time I am hungry for pork. It’s delicious. I love carnitas and there’s nothing easier than throwing a hunk of pork shoulder into the crockpot with a bunch of spices and letting it slow cook all day. By 5 o’clock I’m ready to top tortillas with pulled pork, feta cheese, cilantro and a squeeze of lime. Simple and yet so satisfying.
I got the craving early on a Sunday so I set off for Hannaford. I usually just get the Hannaford natural brand. Years ago I had learned that most pork was being “enhanced” - injected with a solution that altered the taste and texture of the meat, making it inedible. At least with the Hannaford All Natural I knew it was processed less than the name brand meat sitting nearby. The one hunk of Boston butt was in a package with a hole so I went to the meat counter to ask for a different one. I told the meat cutter I wanted the Hannaford All Natural pork and he said all they had was Smithfield. I had the package with the hole and showed him that I wanted the same Hannaford brand. He then told me that all of their pork is Smithfield but anything that requires cutting just gets labeled in a Hannaford package.
Now, I didn’t expect Hannaford to have their own pig farms, but I also didn’t think they would take a big brand like Smithfield and put the Hannaford name on it. Here’s what is listed on Hannaford’s website about their all-natural pork:
Nature’s Place All-Natural Pork takes the taste and quality of pork to a whole new level. As a result of many years of experience and the development of an animal-friendly style of pork production, sows and pigs used for the Nature’s Place brand have unlimited access to grass, fresh air and running water. They are on a strictly vegetarian diet and never fed animal by-products. In addition, they are never given antibiotics or growth hormones.
My concern for a long time was just that I wanted my meat minimally processed. But in recent years it’s become evident that corporate farming has led to the criminal treatment of animals. I grew up in Illinois. Some of my family members have raised pigs and cows for slaughter but none of them were exposed to the conditions of today’s large-scale corporate farming. Smithfield is one of the worst offenders. Murphy-Brown, LLC is in charge of the hog farming for Smithfield and I can’t find anything from Smithfield or Murphy-Brown that supports Hannaford’s claim of pigs having “unlimited access to grass, fresh air and running water”. They have a page about animal welfare on Murphy-Brown’s site and even in the pictures you don’t see any pigs living outdoors!
Here’s the deal. Most of us eat meat. I, for one, will not be giving it up any time soon. It’s delicious. My teeth were made to tear apart that sweet, sweet flesh. I do love animals and not just because they’re tasty. But just because we raise them for the sole purpose of eating them, it doesn’t give us the right to treat them in an inhumane manner Like people, animals need grass under their feet/paws, mud between their toes/hooves, wind in their hair/fur and the sun overhead. They just do.
Here is one of my favorite piggy pictures from Our Farm in Easton, NY – this is what a pig’s life should be:
I’ve been moving towards this for a while, but as I left the Hannaford meat counter, disgusted at their labeling Smithfield meats as something else and equally disgusted at myself for not asking the question sooner, I made the decision to only buy meats if I know where they come from.
I realize this won’t always be possible and may also require a phone call to Boar’s Head because how on earth will I give up their chipotle chicken? But hey, I was able to walk away from that cheap pork roast at Hannaford, which means sometimes the choice will be to go without. What’s really unfair is that the majority of Americans probably don’t have the ability to make the same choice. Animals who are treated properly are damn expensive. I went to the Coop after leaving Hannaford and paid THREE TIMES as much for the same size cut of meat (I wasn’t ready to go without that day – and we did get 4 meals for two out of that pork). Talk about putting your money where your mouth is. But with proper planning I can do a little better.
First, the farm that my Coop piggy came from will sell directly to consumers and they charge $3 less per pound than the Coop. Buying directly from the farmer will always save some money. Also shopping the Adventure in Food Trading sales and stocking up on Stillwater pork is always good. Second, I could also bite the bullet and buy a quarter or a half of a pig or a cow. The price per pound is generally lower than the crappy meat they sell at Hannaford – plus you get all the good cuts. Third, and probably the best thing, would be to cut back on the frequency of meat meals. I am already eating more vegetarian meals this year than I ever have before so this shouldn’t be too difficult.