Smithfield Sale Raises Concerns

Shuanghui International, a Chinese meat processing company, has agreed to purchase US-based Smithfield Foods, a development that raises numerous concerns. Sale of the world’s largest pork producer to a company that is heavily subsidized by the Chinese government is expected to result in less competition and further consolidation in the pork industry worldwide. The company will likely ramp up production in the United States—with associated increases in environmental pollution and animal suffering—to meet the Chinese population’s growing demand for meat. Intensification and consolidation of pig farming will result in the replacement of thousands of small family farms with massive animal feeding operations, where pigs are crammed by the thousands into windowless sheds and fed antibiotics to keep them alive. Smithfield has announced that it will raise half of its pigs on feed that does not contain ractopamine, a drug that causes adverse physical and behavioral effects in pigs and has been banned in a number of countries. Given that China does not allow pork from pigs raised with ractopamine to be imported, it seems likely that only Chinese consumers will be receiving ractopamine-free pork and American consumers will continue to be sold pork raised with the drug.