US Transnational Involvement | Viva!

US Transnational Involvement

In April 1999, a giant of the US meat industry, Smithfield Foods Incorporated - the biggest meat corporation in the US which slaughtered 11.6 million pigs in 1999 - acquired Animex, Poland's largest live animal exporter and meat producer (13). It was previously a state meat-trading monopoly with nine processing plants located across the country and export trading offices in Italy, Germany, France, Great Britain, Austria, the US and Japan. Export markets make up about 26 per cent of Animex’s sales. Since the acquisition, Smithfield Foods Inc. now controls most of the horse export trade and has the power to exert influence over government policies (8).

According to the Washington Post, (July 3, 2000), Andrzej Lepper - leader of the Polish farmers’ trade union Samoobrona - is accusing Animex of offering him a $1,000,000 bribe to end his activity against factory farms (8).

Smithfield Foods’ head office is at 200 Commerce Street, Smithfield, VA 23430, Phone: (757) 365-3000 and the organisation is headed by Joseph W. Luter, III, Chairman and CEO. It’s growth has been phenomenal over the last four years, making it the largest pork producer in the US.
Number of Sows

(2000): 695,000
(1999): 785,000
(1998): 152,000
(1997): 120,000

The vast majority of these sows are kept in close confinement stalls and gestation (farrowing) crates for their entire lives. They are unable ever to turn around. This is factory farming at its worst.

Sales in 1999 totalled $3.8 billion and gross profits amounted to $540 million.

According to the environmental monitoring group, Hogwatch, the company has become a world leader in pork production by systematically acquiring pig production and processing facilities in the United State and overseas. It became the world's largest producers of pigs when it acquired Murphy Farms in 1999 for $460 million. Today Smithfield owns 695,000 sows on industrial-sized operations in North Carolina, Virginia, Utah, Missouri, Oklahoma and Illinois. These sows give birth to an average of nearly 38,802 piglets every day making it a major producer of pigs for the entire market. In North Carolina, Murphy Farms, Carroll's Foods, Brown's of North Carolina and Quarter M farms are all subsidiaries of Smithfield Foods Inc.

Smithfield Foods is also the world's largest processor of pork. In fact, the company operates the world's largest processing plant strategically located in Bladen County, North Carolina, which slaughters on average 28,000 hogs a day. During peak periods it can be up to 32,000 hogs a day. The company also owns two other processing facilities in the Southeast and two in the Midwest, which gives it an aggregate slaughter capacity of 78,300 hogs a day and represents 72 per cent of the slaughter capacity in the South Atlantic region.

Smithfield Foods has succeeded in creating a network of pig producers and processors that ensures a steady supply of animals for slaughter. This strategy has resulted in record profits for the company over the past three years (36).

It was found to have ‘egregious and pervasive’ federal labour law violations during two campaigns by trade unions to recruit workers at the Tar heel slaughterhouse in the 1990s, according to another environmental monitoring group, Sierra Club. It was also found to have conspired with the local sheriff's office to ‘physically intimidate and assault union supporters, held meetings to intimidate and threaten workers for supporting the union and illegally fired workers during union recruiting campaigns (35).

Smithfield Foods was also fined $12.6 million by the Environmental Protection Agency for sewage discharges and other violations (35).

Smithfield's slaughterhouse in Tar Heel discharges three million gallons of treated waste water every day into the Cape Fear river. Again, according to the Sierra Club, between January 1993 and October 1997, state regulators documented at least 120 violations of pollution as set forth in the plant's operating permit. Officials have issued at least 34 Notices of Violation for permit violations or for spills and discharges involving either animal waste, blood and grease, airborne blood, animal remains, sludge or caustic substances. To date, Smithfield has paid approximately $54,452 in fines for the environmental violations at this plant (35).

John Morrell & Company, who operate a pig slaughterhouse in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, was bought out by Smithfield Foods in 1996. This slaughterhouse also had a history of fines and a penalty of $3 million for criminal violations of the Clean Water Act. They admitted to violating the Act 130 times during a 17-month period between August 1991 and December 1992 (35).

States such as North and South Carolina have created moratoriums on the creation of more pig farms. Due to concerns about large-scale pollution from animal waste, the governor of South Carolina imposed a moratorium on these large scale farms until their environmental regulators could consider the permits. Smithfield is applying for permission to open two farms containing 32,000 pigs. They already have 30 factory farms in South Carolina with about 5,000 pigs on
each (35).