Why food chain will remain broken

When the Smithfield meat packing plant went down last week, shutting an amazing 5% of pork production, and we were told there would be no disruptions in our food supply chain, I said to myself, “that ain’t kosher.”

Food processing line

Now we are told there will be a disruption in what we used to call food production and who could not have seen that coming? Supermarkets are still short of toilet paper(!) and Lysol wipes, more than a month into lockdown.

Anyone could have seen the interruption in production coming because after the mass infection at Smithfield, outbreaks at other food processing plants — beef, pork, poultry, eggs — were as inevitable as they were at nursing homes.

President Donald J. Trump on Tuesday signed an executive order under the Defense Production Act to compel meat processing plants to remain open, saying the government will provide additional protective gear for employees as well as guidance.

Sounds good, but here’s the problem: The government can’t wave a wand to reopen the closed plants if a large number of workers have contracted the COVID-19 virus and must quarantine for 14 days.

I don’t think we will see Soviet-style bare shelves, but you ought to think about plant-based substitutes for your meat. Right now Burger King’s “impossible burger” is looking good.

Switching to chicken might not work. Remember a while back when Popeye’s impossibly ran out of its crazy popular fried chicken sandwiches? How could that happen? That’s like McDonald’s running out of fries.

In checking the internet, I have yet to see any catastrophic reports from a legitimate source that Americans are going to starve, but further disruptions are inevitable. Brace yourself.

Let’s take a step back to where we believe all of this began — in the so-called Wuhan “wet market.”

These are found in many parts of Asia and are disgusting to Western eyes.

Live turtles for sale in Thai market. (Photo: Stu Bykofsky)

In cages, bowls and urns, live animals are sold for food. You can find fowl, fawns, rabbits, frogs, bats and even dogs that will be slaughtered while you wait. For most Americans, it is revolting.

Dogs and rabbits for sale in China. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)

But most Americans don’t think about the food they eat, and how it got to their plate.

Because of breakdowns in the supply chain, and because of lack of demand due to closed restaurants, some farmers are plowing under produce they can’t get to market, they are dumping milk, while others are mourning what some call the “depopulation” of their hogs, which others call euthanasia — the killing of perhaps millions to save the cost of feeding them to keep them alive.

We are not smart enough to get the excess to food pantries? Apparently not.

I’ve seen interviews with farmers who practically sob when talking about having to put their pigs down. Why?

What did they think happened when they got shipped off to market? The pigs wind up dead, whether on the farm or in the slaughterhouse. Maybe the farmers mourn the waste, because it is the hogs’ destiny to be food.

Matter of fact, farm euthansia might be less painful than what happens in the slaughterhouse.

Even before they get to the slaughterhouse, they have lives of unmitigated misery. The mental picture you may have of Farmer Gray raising his hogs in a barnyard is a fantasy.

What is reality? Hogs jammed into sheds in factory farms where they never feel the warmth of the sun on their backs, often pinned in narrow cages that deny them any kind of natural activity. 

It is cheaper to treat them as products, rather than as sentient mammals who can feel physical pain and emotional distress. You know, like us. 

Food processing plants are as mean as anything you can imagine — rows of workers, standing shoulder to shoulder on assembly lines, wearing face shields, rubber aprons, and often rubber boots to protect them.

The horrors of factory farming and the brutality of slaughterhouses is a subject for another day.

For today, I’ll just say we may have to kill animals for our table, but that should be as painless as humanely possible.

13 thoughts on “Why food chain will remain broken”

  1. I just can’t understand why a farmer would kill his livestock. Why not put the animals up for sale? Or develop a purchase plan where consumers buy the hog/cow and pay for it’s upkeep until it’s time for it to go to Market. I’m sure this sounds crazy to some but just destroying an animal and not using it for food is senseless!

    1. Who would buy them? They have to be fed. A major problem is the market has collapsed because restaurants are closed. There should be a solution… probably requires a smart millionaire.

      1. As I alluded to in my latest reply, It’s all about the bucks. If the feds were to pay to save the critters, then they wouldn’t be wasted as fertilizer. FYI. All crops have a bottom line. It doesn’t matter if it’s sod or sow. ( pretty good, eh?!?) You sell the sod when it’s rooted enough. You sell hogs when they’re fat enough. After that, money wasted.here is large profit margin.

  2. I think a humane way to slaughter animals would be to read congressional political speeches to them, Read to them long enough and they may commit hari kari.

    1. Or some politician apologies:

      I am not responsible for comments that I have made in the past because I am presently having problems remembering past comments.

      I am sorry if anything that I may have said may have offended

      I want to take this moment to say, if what I said offended you, I didn’t mean to say it.

      If you thought what I said offended you, I am sorry you feel that way.

  3. Just add the words “I’m just sayin'” after something a politician says. For example, what if Patrick Henry had said, “Give me liberty or give me death! I’m just sayin’…” Or Reagan had said, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall! I’m just sayin…'” Or Bill Clinton had said, “I did not have sex with that woman! I’m just sayin’…”

    1. These are the times that try men’s souls,….im just sayin’
      How ’bout “we have nothing to fear but fear itself….im just sayin’

      1. An apology with a Vince flair……

        I swear it’s the truth, the whole truth, ask anyone, no matter what they say….. I’m just sayin

    It was my pleasure ( my wife said so ) to till the gardens yesterday, then spread mulch, top soil and build borders made of Belgium block.
    I have to agree with you, Stu, that there will be an interruption in meat processing. I don’t have the same feelings for these animals that some of you are showing. The people that I know raise beef cattle, pigs and poultry for profit. They are not treated “humanely”, because they are not humans. I don’t think that I ever heard PETA complaining about these farmers, but I could be wrong. Around here, 500 pigs or 200 cattle is a good size farm. Chickens are by the thousands. The chickens have to stay indoors. They also have to meet the stringent qualifications of Tyson or one of the other processors in Delaware. Pigs are kept outside once they are old enough. Usually there is just a roof over them to block the sun. Beef cattle are free range. They don’t complain about the weather. If it’s too hot, they go lay in the pond. They coat themselves with mud for protection. Dairy cattle are a different breed ( pun intended ). They are usually kept close to the barns. Their diet is watched and they get their shots. There are dairy standards that have to be met. Calves raised for veal is a completely different matter, and we wont touch that. Because raising animals is a business, it’s about profit. Once an animal reaches the weight, they are sold. To keep them longer means less profits. ( Farming is not a very profitable business )
    As for killing pigs and cows. Raised in the city, we would go over to the slaughter house and watch the pigs come out of the trucks. They would be herded up a ramp. At the top, a gate front and back would pin the pig, then a blade would come up and split the pig from head to tail. NEXT. Cattle were similar. Up the ramp, two gates drop, guillotine would decapitate the cow. NEXT. These methods were not meant to be “human”. They were meant to kill the animal as quickly as possible. Not because of pain, but because fear toughens the meat. Out here, a small farm would just shoot the animal.
    As for “Wet Markets”. Does anybody remember 9th St. up until the ’60s ? Chickens were stacked in cages, waiting to be slaughtered. Whole fish ( seafood ) was plentiful. It was that way at the so called Farmers’ Market located in and around the city. Come out to Chester, Berks and Lancaster Counties. You have your choice of chickens. The auctions put up cows, pigs and other livestock. Yours for petting, milking, eating………………..I was in Europe not that long ago. Vince was in Japan and Stu was in France ( D-Day ). What we had here, you will still find there. We grown accustomed to seeing a filet of flounder, not the fish. We order steaks and hamburgers prepackaged. I used to get mind on the hoof. Maybe we are too sanitized. Maybe we think everything should be treated as our equal. You go right ahead and think that. I’ll have my beef rare.

      1. Stu,
        I know that you care about animals, and that you even have a soft spot in your heart for PETA. I care about pets. Horses, cats, dogs, and we were adopted by raccoons, squirrels , possums and not to mention all of the winged creatures. Pets are pets, often times a big part of the family. As I said, farms are in business to make money. Contrary to popular belief, farmers, per capitol, are poor. If they had to buy the farm that they’re working, they couldn’t. Farms are almost always passed down through the family. The Amish pull their money to buy a farm. I don’t doubt that mistreatment occurs at some farms. It is not the norm. The animals are raised as I said, then sold to be butchered. That’s the way it goes. If you don’t want to think about the food chain, don’t eat meat. Kill a carrot.
        As for PETA. Remember that woman associated with PETA, who was picketing out side of Boyd’s ? She’s and people like her are part of the problem. She opened her mouth and I stuck the code book in it !

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