Celebrate National Pig Day

How would I like everyone to celebrate National Pig Day?

Well, first of all, I would like everyone to recognize where the vast majority of the pork in thi country comes from: industrial farms which are pretty much nothing less than disgraceful threats to the ecological and medical health of our communities. Not to mention that they are also pits of hellishly unethical treatment for animals. (And no, I am not a PETA member. While I dislike industrial farming with an intense passion, I also dislike and mistrust the tactics, rhetoric and clandestine dealings of PETA. Their leader, Ingrid Newkirk has taken positions which I find not only to be ethically questionable, but also personally repugnant. But, that is fodder for another post.)

If you don’t believe me, take a gander at this article exposing Smithfield’s pork operations from Rolling Stone. Or this paper entitled, “Environmental Injustice and the Mississippi Hog Industry.” Or any of the articles linked to the Factory Farming website. And this article by the Sierra Club reporting on the dangerous working conditions of pork slaughterhouses in North Carolina, and the unfair treatment of the primarily Latino workforce. (While you are there take a glance at the tiny photograph of the filthy pigs crammed into a confinement pen together at an industrial farm and compare it to the photograph below.)

Then, do me a favor and take a good look at this picture.

They are cute little guys, aren’t they? This photograph was -not- taken at an industrial farm: this litter of clean little piglets is being raised on a more traditional, diversified farm where the animals are not treated as commodities. Farms such as this also do not wreak environmental damage from toxic runoff causing human illness, fish die-offs and the lowering of property values.

Granted, those cute wee piggies are going to grow up and be slaughtered, hopefully in an ethical, quick and as painless a fashion as possible. Death is inevitable when you are raising meat, after all. But, I want everyone who is going to eat meat, to at least look it in the eye and recognize what they are doing as they do it. That is why I wrote “Meat Comes From Animals, Deal With It Or Eat Vegetables;” I wanted carnivores to own up to what they eat.

And I hope that if you are disturbed by what you learn about industrial meat production, that you take steps to lower your own consumption of these products. Look around your local area, and see if there is a small farmer who raises pigs in a more ethical, healthier fashion, and patronize them. (Try looking here at Local Harvest: a comprehensive, ever-growing online listing of local food producers from all over the US.) If you cannot afford much in the way of local meats (they tend to be more expensive, but they not only are healthier for you, the animals, the farmer, and the planet, they -taste- better than industrial meat), then eat less pork, and maybe more tofu. Or beans. Use meat as a seasoning, not as the central item of your menu, just as folks have done all through time.

There are national producers of ethically raised pork. Niman Ranch is one, though their products are expensive. Expensive they may be, but they are tasty–and they also produce beef and lamb.

When you go out to eat, try and patronize restaurants that use locally produced sustainable foods. Here in Athens, we have Casa Nueva and The Village Bakery, among other local eateries, that concentrate on local, organic ingredients. Or, if they are near you, patronize the chain Chipotle, which uses as many organically raised, sustainable ingredients possible to make their tasty burritos. They start out with top-quality fresh raw ingredients (they buy their pork from Niman Ranch),and cook on site to make fast food that doesn’t taste fast. It tastes good.

Or, become a vegetarian, if the meat industry really torques you off. If I didn’t live near great farms that produce wonderful meat, that is what I would do. As it is, I eat less and less meat every year. I enjoy it when I eat it, but I still like vegetables and tofu just as much, or sometimes, more, than most meat. And,Then frankly, if I ate primarily Indian, Chinese, Thai and Mexican foods, I could probably be quite happy as a vegetarian. (That is, until I smelled bacon cooking or saw someone eating raw tuna. Then, I would probably backslide horribly.)

What is the upshot of all of this?

Well, as much as I love pork, and I do–as a look through the recipes on this blog will show–I love pigs, too. And I love clean water, clean air and healthy people. And frankly, the pork industry does a crappy job at taking care of the pigs, water, air and people I love. Besides all of that, their pork is dry, tasteless, and is usually pumped full of water, salt and other seasonings. Ick.

Which is why I don’t eat “The Other White Meat,” from the grocery store, nor will I.

If I cannot get it from a local farmer whose practices I know and trust, and who produces tasty and healthful pork, I won’t eat it.

Now that I am off of my soapbox, here is a recipe that uses both pork and tofu that has become one of my favorite dishes of all time: Spicy Pork with Pressed Tofu


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  1. I know where my meat comes from, for the most part. But you already knew that.

    What’s for dinner?


    Comment by Dr. Biggles — March 1, 2007 #

  2. Pig, of course.

    I mean, it is National Pig Day after all.

    I was going to do my beloved pork with tofu that I linked to above, but Zak said no Chinese today. He wasn’t in the mood.

    So, it is a simple supper of pork chops with shallots, garlic and chipotle-mustard pan sauce, garlic mashed potatoes and broccoli sauteed in olive oil with garlic and lemon.

    And the pigs these came from–Duroc hogs raised in Ohio not far from here on forage and organic grain.

    And boy are they tasty piggies.

    Comment by Barbara — March 1, 2007 #

  3. What specifically don’t you like about the techniques of PETA? How exactly would you go about elevating the issue to a broader public, one that has contempt for even considering the notion of treating food ethically? I doubt you could do better and frankly your not. I’ll keep my PETA card for awhile.

    Comment by Sean — March 2, 2007 #

  4. Well Sean…

    How about PETA’s well-known (but never admitted) practice of euthanizing stray dogs, and then denying that they do it? That pretty much knocks them down the honorable latter for me.

    Not to mention that many of the leaders have been involved in eco-terrorism. Some have been arrested and charged with assult and battery for beating up scientists and chemists outside the doors of comestic companies and medical research labs.

    Please, anyone who thinks PETA deserves accolades is either delusional or doesn’t know the facts. The general public is not contemptious of ethical food practices. Most people simply don’t know how to go about making ethical food choices. For others, like myself, buying organic food is prohibitively expensive. I do what I can by buying food that is as natural as possible, but I can’t afford 12-17 dollars a pound for free range meat, that is just not going to happen, and strict vegetarianism is not appealing to me

    Comment by Roxanne Rieske — March 2, 2007 #

  5. Here in Britain they are just starting a TV series called “Kill It, Cook It, Eat It” on the topic of where meat comes from. I’m with you – I won’t eat “the other white meat” either, assuming that by that you mean veal. But I’m not going to send letter bombs to people like some extreme animal liberationists do in this country. Just do my bit as a chef when I graduate, to promote free range, organic and ethical food.

    Comment by Trig — March 2, 2007 #

  6. Friday Ark #128

    We’ll post links to sites that have Friday (plus or minus a few days) photos of their chosen animals (photoshops at our discretion and humans only in supporting roles). Watch the Exception category for rocks, beer, coffee cups, and….? Do link to the…

    Trackback by Modulator — March 2, 2007 #

  7. Thanks for this, Barbara. I am a committed vegetarian, but I absolutely LOVE it when omnivores speak up in favor of ethical, environmentally sound meat production. That perspective is vital in getting the welfare and rights of animals taken seriously.

    Comment by SecretNatasha — March 4, 2007 #

  8. This comment is to Sean, re: the unethical actions of PETA members.
    A few years back, when my husband and I lived in the Bay Area (across the bay from SF), the SF Ballet did a production of The Nutcracker. PETA members handed out full color brochures to children that essentially said, “If you leave your puppy or kitten home with mommy and daddy, they’re going to murder it.” The brochure also had, in wonderful living color, a rabbit dissection. I don’t see how anyone can call that ethical.

    Also, as a diabetic, I am greatly in favor of medical research on animals. Without it, I would be dead.

    Comment by Kymster — March 4, 2007 #

  9. As a major shareholder in Smithfield Meats, I loved the Rolling Stone article. The point was Smithfield’s dominance and control of the market. Stock prices have been up up up. No one really cares what goes on out in the middle of nowhere… that’s why we live in city and suburbs, eating bacon, sausage and hams we got on sale at WalMart… thanks to Smithfield!

    See you on the veranda… with a ham sandwich.

    Richard Quick, Esq.

    “If God didn’t want us to eat animals, why’d he make them out of meat?”

    Comment by Millionaire Richard Quick, Esq. — March 4, 2007 #

  10. Hi Barbara,
    Thanks for the article and the great website. Your sentiments here are reflected in Hugh Fearnley Wittingstall’s brilliant book titled “Meat”. This book has changed the way I eat/cook for the better. I have tried to purchase at least 50 percent of my meat from my local butcher, with whom I have since had great conversations (meat and otherwise). Do me a favour and pop it on your “to read” cookbook list. I would be interested in what you think.

    Best regards

    Comment by Jeff — March 5, 2007 #

  11. I am a meat eater and I agree whole heartedly!

    Comment by D — March 5, 2007 #

  12. PETA has a widely published philosphy about euthanization of pets. Google will reveal it. Uncomfortable times call for uncomfortable measures.

    Some of the PETA antics are juvenile and meant to stir up publicity which brings the mostly ignored issue up for public debate. I’m sorry that’s not obvious to you. I don’t mean to be a twit, acknowleging I am, but ignoring is a form of contempt.

    Comment by Sean — March 5, 2007 #

  13. Gee, Sean, do you have a personal issue with me, or my opinions? I am not ignoring you or your question–I haven’t been on the internet since I wrote this post. So, don’t get in my face about how I am ignoring you and thus showing contempt, because, frankly, that makes you sound like you have some sort of persecution complex.

    The reasons I dislike PETA as an organization are quite succinct: I do not agree with their goal of “total animal liberation.” I think that complete abolition of animal testing in the health and pharmaceutical fields is a grave mistake and would have dire consequences for the health of both humans and animals, and I think that banning it completely is unethical. I think that the action of completely dissing the no-kill shelter movement is wrong-headed and unethical, and I think that the debacle that occurred in North Carolina where PETA employees from Virginia took adoptable companion animals that they promised to find homes for, then immediately killed them with illegal drugs they were not licensed to use in NC, then dumped the bodies in a grocery store dumpster over a period of weeks is not only unethical, but reprehensible.

    I also find the leader of PETA, Ingrid Newkirk’s personal views to be odious, and I find her personal and monetary support of ALF and ELF, both of which are nothing more than domestic terrorist organizations to ethically questionable at best, illegal at worst.

    As for the euthanasia issue–I understand that some animals are so sick or abused that the best option is a clean, painless death. I have had enough animal companions over the years that I have had to hold one or another of them while a veterinarian releases them from their pain to not know that it is sometimes a necessity. However, I -do- have an issue with the idea that the best thing one can give an unwanted, unloved animal is a painless death. That is incorrect. The best thing one can give to a homeless, unloved companion animal is a loving home, not a needle full of poison.

    I do agree with many of PETA’s stated goals. To get people away from wearing fur is laudable, and I have to admit to liking some of their “I’d rather go naked than wear fur” ads. They are eye-catching and cute. I also agree that factory farming is an abomination, however, I do not support all of the goals and methods of PETA, not now, nor ever.

    Oh, and by the way–factory farming and protest against it, is very much in the news these days, and not only because of PETA. Michael Pollan’s “The Omnivore’s Dilemma,” the Eat Local movement and the efforts of Whole Foods, among others, have contributed to widening the media coverage of the issue of factory farming, often in ways less ludicrous and obnoxious than PETA.

    I have been researching PETA for quite some time now and am working on a post about why I do not support them, even if I am against factory farms. So, for more information, look for that essay in the near future.

    As for the rest of y’all–I am glad that this small essay started some discussion.

    Roxanne–get on, girl, get on. What you said. I agree wholeheartedly.

    Trig–when I said “The Other White Meat,” that was referring to pork. That is a trademark of the National Pork Council. But, for the record, I don’t eat veal, either. I both don’t like how it is produced, nor what it tastes like.

    And good for you for using your position as a chef in the future to educate and elucidate.

    Natasha–thank you. It is also one of my favorite topics.

    Kymster–yeah, those brochures are available online. Pretty creepy stuff. And yeah–I always wonder about PETA members who are diabetic. Where do they think insulin comes from?

    Hey, Richard. I guess no one cares, except for those of us who do. Which leads me to believe that you don’t live near a Smithfield hog farm, and you don’t care about anyone who does.

    Speaking of ethics…..well, your statement spoke for itself.

    Jeff–thanks for the book recommendation! I will try and get to it soon!


    Comment by Barbara — March 5, 2007 #

  14. These days insulin is produced by bacteria or yeast expressing a gene for human insulin (this is why insulins have brand names like Humulin and Humalog). Once recombinant human insulin became available, demand for porcine and bovine insulin dropped precipitously–especially after insurance carriers started covering human insulin products.

    I believe bovine insulin is no longer available in the US, and I can find only two porcine insulins still marketed. I’ve never seen them in practice, and I suspect the only people still using them are elderly patients who managed to stabilise on them in middle age and never wanted to break their routines.

    None of this is to say that animal-derived insulins are ineffective or have no place in practice; their price makes them appealing for use when diabetes is becoming a widespread issue but recombinant insulins are utterly unaffordable, as is happening currently in some less-developed nations; notably China and India. PETA members are generally young, and hence unlikely to remember the days of slaughterhouse insulin in North America.

    Just, uh, in case you were really wondering.

    Comment by persimmon — March 5, 2007 #

  15. Thank you, Persimmon. Most of my knowledge of how insulin is/was produced in the US is outdated; mostly because it was my Grandma, who was a diabetic, who once told me that without animals, there would be no insulin to keep her alive.

    On the other hand, without animal testing, we wouldn’t be able to cure very many diseases at all.

    I always appreciate it when you post, Persimmon–I hope to see more from you soon.

    Comment by Barbara — March 6, 2007 #

  16. Makes me think of crackleing!

    Comment by water filters — June 29, 2007 #

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