Smithfield Corporation is the biggest producer of pork in the US. And, it’s an established name in the world of processed meat products.
But, many consumers of their products aren’t unaware that this company was bought by WH Foods in 2013. This is a $22 billion Chinese company that processes meat.
The acquisition raised concerns about the involvement of foreign sides in the American food industry and the environmental and social consequences of the factory’s farming practices.
This corporation’s headquarters are in Smithfield, Virginia and they’re known for products like roasts, ribs, sausages, bacon, etc. WH bought them in 2013. The acquisition allowed the Chinese company to increase its global presence and ensure a steady supply of pork for the markets in China.
Their market was affected by the African swine fever which led to a drop in the population of pigs. Smithfield doesn’t disclose the exact amount of meat being exported to China.
The Effects of Smithfield Foods’s Practices on the Environment
The factory’s farming practices have been criticized due to their negative effects on the environment. Namely, in 2017, drone footage showed that there was a large, football stadium-sized “lake” full of pig urine and feces at their largest facility for pork farming.
Mark Devries released the footage as part of his investigative documentary named Speciesism: The Movie. This documentary exposed the harsh conditions in which these animals are raised. They live cramped in buildings and are unable to move freely.
Unfortunately, the waste that this factory produces is disposed of by being sprayed into the air, which is detrimental to the environment. According to the EPA, Smithfield Foods violated the Clean Water Act. Back in 1997, this company was fined $12.6 million because of a release of pollutants into the Pagan River in Virginia.
Is Smithfield Importing Chinese Pork?
One of the numerous concerns about the company’s acquisition by the WH Group is that they may be sending pigs to China to be slaughtered. Then, the packed meat is sent back to the US.
However, a 2020 USA Today fact-check piece reported this rumor as false. The spokesperson of the company Jenna Wollin denied the claim and said that the products are made in the US following USDA and FDA policies.
A Lot of Other Conspiracies Surround Smithfield
This company is facing other controversies in the US. Namely, they agreed to pay $75 million to settle a class action lawsuit over the price-fixing of pork.
In 2021, they settled for $83 million after being accused of conspiring to reduce the pork supply since 2009. In a recent report, the company’s pollution was revealed. 21 of their Missouri farms were associated with the spillage of more than seven million gallons of waste for 30 years.
Some reported that Smithfield will probably close some of their sow farms due to challenges with the hog market. Considering their history with chronic pollution animal agriculture and price fixing, Smithfield is no worse than other owners of farm factories.
It may be that the anti-China part is making media and consumers more attentive to a system that’s already corrupt and polluted.