Wednesday, March 7, 2012

We're #1!

As I read Hahn Niman's chapter on exploring industrial pork production in North Carolina, I'm reminded of my days working at CMF&Z, a local advertising agency with a lot of agricultural accounts. In those days (the '80s and '90s), Iowa was the undisputed King of Pork Producers. But I remember hearing that North Carolina was on the road to overtake us, because they had confinement farming, and Iowa did not. I believe there was controversy in Iowa about whether these farms should be allowed, family farms saying that they would not be able to compete; economics obviously won out, though I didn't closely follow the issue at the time, as we obviously have confinement farms now. In fact, for the first time (and shame on me for not noticing it long ago), when I traveled rural Iowa this past summer, I was suddenly struck by seeing no hogs.

I remember well growing up and traveling with my family that all the farms along our routes had hogs in fenced areas outside of barns. My aunt and uncle raised hogs and I remember visiting. Now, you do not see hogs. None. And yet -- so far as I know -- Iowa still ranks #1 in hog production.

Tonight, I did a little checking to see if that was so. Indeed, in fact, there is barely a close competitor. North Carolina is still 2nd, but there really isn't any contest. Check out these numbers, from the 2011 State of the Pork Industry Report, published by National Hog Farmer:
Iowa and North Carolina alone contain 43.1% of the United States hog inventory.
Hogs & Pigs, Breeding, Market, & Total Inventory, 12/1/2010:
Iowa - total hogs 18,900,000
North Carolina (our closest competitor) - total hogs 8,800,000

We have 18.9 million hogs in this state, and, unless you have explored the barns at the State Fair recently, when is the last time you saw one? Isn't that a little scary? (By the way, the human population of Iowa is 3,062,309.)

Guess what else we're #1 in? Egg production. And once again, no close competitors. According to economic data from the U.S. Poultry & Egg Association, as of 2010 Iowa had 52,537,000 laying hens; our closest competitor is Ohio, with 28,050,000 laying hens.

And, I have to ask, when's the last time you saw a chicken? Admittedly, there is a local food movement afoot with some Iowa communities now allowing city folks to have chickens; bravo! So maybe your next-door-neighbor has a few laying hens. But chances are, you haven't seen a chicken for a good long time. Where are those 52.5 million hens laying their eggs? Confined in tiny battery cages with wire mesh floors and with their beaks clipped off to keep them from pecking their cage-mates, since they are all compacted so closely together: each hen has no more space than a sheet of paper.

We're #1, we're #1! Go Iowa.

Do your eggs come from THESE Iowa hens? 
Or these?

1 comment:

  1. Doing some research for the book discussion tonight at Barnes & Noble (6:30 -- come join us!). Just found this site: Factory Farm Map, a project of Food & Water Watch: Check out the list of specific Iowa problems and incidents. Frustrating.