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.