In the small and beautiful town of Monmouth, Illinois, there is much to learn about and be aware of. However, you may not be aware of the local pork slaughterhouse in town, called Farmland Foods. Whenever we think about where the animals that we eat come from, we assume that they were shipped to our local stores from a far distance. Knowing about a local slaughterhouse may be unpleasant for some, but why not reap the benefits of knowing and being curious about the one right here in town?
Only 1 mile from Monmouth College, Farmland Foods operates just down 6th Street towards the Monmouth Municipal Airport, residing behind the Shopko here in town. The facility in town was constructed and open for operation in 1964. Although it was bought by Farmland Foods Inc. in 1993, it has operated under the name Agar, Wilson Foods, Illinois Pork, and Mariah Packing before that (“Monmouth”).
In 2003, Farmland Foods was purchased by Smithfield Foods for $363.5 million due to bankruptcy (Vansickle). According to Joe Vansickle from the National Hog Farmer, Smithfield Foods kept the operations of Farmland Foods the same, and distribution continued to be made under the Farmland Foods brand (n.p.). In 2013, Smithfield Foods was bought out by the Chinese firm Shuanghui International for approximately $5 billion (Hopkins). Alex Hopkins at The Washington Times reports, “Smithfield’s management team will remain in place and Shuanghui also will honor existing labor agreements with Smithfield workers” (n.p.). According to the Monmouth Farmland website, the slaughterhouse employs about 1,500 people in a non-union facility (“Monmouth”). Many of these employees are Spanish-speaking (Moore) or African immigrants (Zigterman); some are even from Burma (Neal).
Farmland Foods in Monmouth operates under specific regulations in the treatment and distribution of pork. The website reports that 2.7 million pigs are slaughtered annually (“Monmouth”). Farmland Foods ships out 780 million pounds of pork annually including 100 million pounds of fabricated pork such as, loin back ribs, pork spare ribs, and pork chops along with 62 million pounds of bacon, and 22 million pounds of export ground seasoned pork (“Monmouth”).
However, the website does not give much insight to how the animals are treated before slaughter which is a topic worth considering. Many other public sources describe the welfare of pigs prior to slaughter. The Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production reports information about the welfare of hogs on industrial farms such as animal confinement, as well as lagoon waste management on hog farms, and issues of public health related to factory farming (“Executive”).
The Farmland slaughterhouse in Monmouth uses a CO2 chamber to kill all its large finish hogs, who may be approximately 250 pounds. One can still question whether this method is humane. According to Temple Grandin and Gary Smith in their article “Animal Welfare and Humane Slaughter,” the method of CO2 anesthesia is the process in which the hogs become unconscious through carbon dioxide gas (n.p.). The hogs are unconscious which may or may not result in a painless slaughter for them. The authors argue that CO2 stunning is a more humane way of killing pigs before slaughter as opposed to electrical stunning, and can avoid negative effects to the quality of the meat (Grandin and Smith). It appears that the method of CO2 exposure is supposed to decrease the rate of PSE, meaning “pale, soft, and exudative,” flesh, which makes the meat appear less attractive to buyers and consumers because it gives the meat an abnormal color and it makes the meat dry. However, although the pigs are exposed to the CO2 that decreases PSE in pork, Grandin and Smith stated in the article that CO2 should still be avoided as well as any other type of method that may cause the pigs stress before their slaughtering (Grandin and Smith).
In a lovely small town like Monmouth, it is important to be informed about Farmland Foods because it resides so close to our college home. Farmland Foods has a long history that is now connected to international markets, provides immigrants an opportunity to work, and raises important ethical questions for us to consider about our food.
Works Cited “Executive Summary.” National Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production. 2006. Web. 9 Nov. 2015. http://ncifap.org
Farmland. Home page. 2008. Web. 11 Oct. 2015 <http://monmouthfarmland.com/joinus.php>