So we had a meet-up this past weekend with some of the farm moms downtown, and I had a blast!  Once again I was reminded of how lucky I am to be a field mom.  :o)

For some reason, almost all of my conversations that night centered around pork.  The pigs themselves, the process of farming them, stuff like that.  At one point Chris Gould, a farmer who operates just about 50 miles outside of the big city, was telling our table about a trip he took a while back.  During his travels he wound up at the Hormel plant in Austin, Minnesota.

My ears definitely perked up when he mentioned that, because just earlier in the week I had read this article, about a high incidence of an autoimmune disorder among certain workers at the plant, and how Hormel has reacted.  Now obviously that article focuses a lot on labor and immigration issues, but things like: “…And then there was the sound of sizzling electric prods, the clatter of cloven hooves on metal grating, and the guttural, almost human, screeching of hogs” were what stood out to me.  I’m an animal lover, so stuff like that gets under my skin, and makes me question my decision to fry up a pound of bacon and serve BLTs for dinner.

So Chris mentioned going to Austin, I embarrassed myself and yelled out “the Spam plant!” (as if everyone else at the table had read the article too), and he continued to tell us about his experience.  Unlike Ted Genoways, the author of the article, Chris did get to venture inside the plant.

He told us the butchering process was calm.  Quiet.  That the pigs are loaded off of the trucks and put in a pen to relax before they’re slaughtered (I’m sorry, but I can’t think of a more PC word for that…).

Hmm.  So here’s the thing – while “calm” and “quiet” are totally relative terms, and probably mean something a little different to a pig farmer than they do to someone like me who works in an office all day, the contrast between what Chris described and what Genoways described is huge. 

And THIS is why I applied to be a field mom.  Because I want to get closer to the truth.  Not the media version, not the PETA version, not even the Hormel-spun version – I want to sit down with the farmers themselves and hear what they have to say.  Chris didn’t know what I’d read earlier in the week.  He didn’t know that the vision of ”…the guttural, almost human, screeching of hogs…” was still lingering in my mind.  He was just a guy, telling a table of ladies about a trip he took.  I think that’s about as close to the unspun truth as this suburban mom is going to get, and I’m so thankful to have the opportunity to hear it firsthand.

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  1. Dan says:

    I enjoyed your article. Just so you know we prefer to use the term harvested instead of butchered or slaughtered.

    • Betsie says:

      Thanks Dan! I figured there had to be a more “official” term. :o)

      • Pam Janssen says:

        So glad you enjoyed the event I was also at your table representing the pork industry. Your questions and concerns were greatly welcomed. We hope that any future questions you might have can be asked directly to us. I will be a host on the next far tour so hope to see you there.

  2. Thanks for the article, although I grew up on a farm, and still do today my family has cattle, so I don’t know a ton about the hog side of things. Always fun to learn about things outside of my circle of knowledge. Hope you enjoy rest of your farmer chats.

    • Betsie says:

      Thanks! I obviously do not know much about the hog side (or the cattle side, or any side!) of farming either, but I’m looking forward to learning. :o)

  3. Very well written – love to find out that people actually want to find out the truth instead of just believeing the hype! My husband, kids and I raise hogs (farrow to finish) and grain farm for a living in central Indiana, I also have a blog about our life – I write so that I remember, my own little diary, I don’t often get political on my blog because I feel that it is mostly preaching to the choir for those that agree with me and those that don’t agree probably aren’t going to read my blog!

    Crytalcattle put this link on FB and I am so glad she did – can’t wait to read more of your blog!

    • Betsie says:

      Aw, thanks for your kind words! Honestly when I was writing this I didn’t consider it to be very political at all – just trying to explain my thought process. Like you, I just write so I can remember – and if I can get to know people I’d have never met otherwise along the way, even better. :o)

  4. Jan says:

    Always good to hear other views. Thanks! Not everything reported on the internet is accurate.

  5. I just found your blog and found it very interesting. I hope your taking time to see both sides of the issue of how our food is produced. I want to know the truth also. My wife and I farm in central Illinois but we do things a little different. We are organic farmers, dairy, beef, pork, and poultry. we are always open for visitors Just call ahead for an appointment. I’m glad to see people taking interest in how their food is produced.

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