Four corporations control 66 percent of the U.S. hog market, as of 2007. At the top of this list is Smithfield Foods, which slaughters 27 million hogs every year, making it the biggest hog producer and processor in the United States and world, wide. For Smithfield, this means sales of $11 billion a year, but for farmers, consumers, workers, and the environment, this concentration in agriculture has been anything but a success story.
Smithfield controls virtually all aspects of pork production and processing. Its hogs are raised on factory farms where hundreds or thousands of pigs are crammed into large warehouse, like barns.
Each hog produces three times more excrement than a human, creating serious environmental and human health issues. The 500,000 hogs at one Smithfield subsidiary in Utah create eight times more waste than the Salt Lake City metro area, the state‚ biggest city. The waste is stored in enormous lagoons that can overflow, polluting water and land. In North Carolina, millions of gallons of waste from Smithfield‚ lagoons have contaminated rivers and creeks.
Critics argue that Smithfield‚ labor practices are questionable. The National Labor Relation‚ board has ruled the company violated several labor laws.
In 1999, Smithfield took its consolidation appetite abroad when it began buying farms and slaughterhouses in Poland to exploit the country‚ cheap labor, good land, and diligent farmers. Economic, human health, and environmental problems followed.
The situation grew worse in 2004 when Smithfield expanded into Romania, a country where 75 percent of hogs are still raised on household farms. If Smithfield continues its typical business practices there, this will no longer be the case.
This report, The Trouble With Smithfield: A Corporate Profile, will make the case that Smithfield‚ size and power are causing economic, human health, and environmental problems in the United States and around the world.