Statement by Wenonah Hauter, Executive Director, Food & Water Watch
Washington, D.C. — “The purchase of Smithfield by Chinese company Shuanghui International Holdings Ltd., is bad news for U.S. farmers and consumers, the environment and food safety. This merger tightens the grip of multinational agribusinesses and Wall Street on America’s kitchens, as Shuanghui is partially owned by U.S. investment bank Goldman Sachs.
“While it’s making business news headlines, U.S. consumers will likely not take notice of the change, but it will show up on their plates in the form of farmer exploitation, more factory farms and a more complicated supply chain that leaves consumers at higher risk of food contamination.
“Smithfield owns more hogs than the next eight largest hog producers combined, slaughtering more hogs than any other company in the world. The company has a growing stranglehold over U.S. farmers, who have fewer options for selling their hogs at the market and are prey to abusive contractors from processors like Smithfield. Shuanghui grew into China’s biggest meat company by adopting the industrialized factory farm model pioneered by companies like Smithfield.
“Merger mania in the meat industry in recent decades has led to more factory farms in the U.S., with 95 percent of hogs now raised in operations of over 2,000 animals. We may export the pork, but we keep millions of gallons on manure right here in U.S. hog raising communities in North Carolina and Iowa.
“Consumers also suffer from this consolidation trend, as we saw in the massive egg recall of 2010. With just a handful of farms producing most of our food, food safety problems on even a few factory farms can end up in kitchens across the globe. In 2011, Shuanghui was embroiled in a food safety scandal for producing and selling pork laced with the banned veterinary drug clenbuterol, which is linked to serious human health risks. Overseas ownership can only complicate and shield potential future food safety problems from U.S. oversight.”
Contact: Darcey Rakestraw, 202-683-2467; [email protected]