Lipstick on a Pig

I have discovered that I cannot burn the candle at one end and write…with the other. –Katherine Mansfield (1919)

By casuistry as uproarious as it is dismal, a Minnesota hog farmer claims ‘factory farms’ no such thing.

Why yes, our barns, equipped with automatic feeders and temperature and air controls, look like factories. Why yes, hog genetics reducing diversity and fat content limit the animals’ toleration for weather and, left unsaid, disease.

But on the heels of bad publicity around vile abuse at a Pipestone farm damning piglets as so many uncooperative widgets–see the video above–Wanda Patsche tells us don’t call them factories. They’re owned by “my neighbors, my friends, fellow church members…,” who, in actuality, are caught in Big Ag contracts that, as we described here last month, hold the farmers to all the value chain’s liabilities and allows them none of its control.

Y’know, like factory workers.

The red herring, a faux-folksy, runs alongside a historical reification that reads as a reversal of the typical is-ought problem. Patsche deploys the problems of yesteryear’s farms to rationalize the failures of today’s. Right, we know how we got to this point, but it offers no support for continuing farming this way.

It turns out that the pig in this online poke is a Pork Board plant.

Patsche is an ‘independent’ farmer who excuses contract farming as the “easy” entrée for beginning farmers Christopher Leonard’s new book refutes.

She sells her hogs to local Fortune 500 Hormel, which she’s unsure is “‘big ag’ or not,” one of a small set of Big Meat monopolies that manipulates the meat market, forcing farmers as a group to sell their animals at the same time. The bottleneck depresses the already low prices at which contractors must sell their perishable commodity.

She’s also, the Star-Tribune fails to note, a member of the Executive Board of the Minnesota Pork Board, AgStar’s Advisory Leadership Committee, and ITC’s Task Advisory committee on power line placement.

The aw-shucks here is all shite.

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