November Book Blog: Pig Tales by Barry Estabrook

By Emily Clever

In this book Barry Estabrook described how varied the lives of pigs in America can be.  For most of the pigs in the U.S. the life they lead would not be considered a happy one.  I greatly appreciate that Estabrook took the time to visit different types of farms in various locations throughout the country.  I think it is important that not all farms get painted with a negative generalization while still being able to talk about areas that are in need of improvement.   

I was somewhat surprised when he talked about the effect The Jungle by Sinclair had on the industry.  Apparently the purpose of the book’s section regarding slaughterhouses was to highlight the working conditions of the employees, instead it resulted in an outcry about the safety of the meat being sold to consumers.  It is very unnerving to read that regulations intended to make the conditions of the workers better have either been removed or may not be enforced. On paper, so to speak, the regulations for slaughterhouses appear to be sufficient to provide safe and humane (as much as possible) environments for both animals and workers.  

As someone who would like to be informed about the products I am purchasing, I find it frustrating that there isn’t more transparency.  Consumers cannot make informed decisions if they don’t have access to accurate information.   

Having grown up in IL I was raised to think Iowa pork chops were the best.  That held true until I went to Denmark. I have to give Denmark credit for having the best bacon I have ever tasted.  While they may have a better system for raising pigs, my Danish friends did discuss growing concerns about the transportation required to get the pigs to slaughterhouses outside of the country.  Since they have already done the transition we could attempt to use the lessons they learned to make it go smoother with less impact on prices.  Hopefully soon farmers in the U.S. will try to implement the same procedures in Denmark.

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