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Pork Giant's Sale to China Could Put Pig Promises in Jeopardy

PHOTO: The Humane Society of the United States wants Smithfield Foods to continue to phase out use of "gestational crates," even if it is sold to a Chinese company. Photo credit: Humane Society of the United States
PHOTO: The Humane Society of the United States wants Smithfield Foods to continue to phase out use of "gestational crates," even if it is sold to a Chinese company. Photo credit: Humane Society of the United States
June 3, 2013

HARTFORD, Conn. - It was one of the biggest business stories of the week: the sale of Smithfield Foods to a Chinese company. But it puts a pig promise in peril. After the Humane Society of the United States exposed the treatment of pigs at a Smithfield factory in Virginia, the company promised to make changes, including expanding the cramped cages that didn't allow pigs to move.

The Humane Society's vice president for farm animal protection, Paul Shapiro, is worried about the fate of those factory-farm improvements if the sale to the Chinese firm is approved.

"As terrible as animal welfare in the U.S. agricultural industry is, it is even worse in China, so there is a real concern about that here," Shapiro declared.

Smithfield's CEO issued a statement saying the company, which is the largest pork producer in the United States, does not anticipate any changes in the way it does business.

Shapiro said he sees that as a good sign.

"Fortunately, the modest animal welfare policies that Smithfield does have seem to be remaining in place, even in light of this new information," he stated. "However, we need to be vigilant, and those policies need to be strengthened."

China's Shuangui International announced Wednesday it would buy Smithfield Foods for $4.7 billion in cash. The deal must still be approved by a U.S. federal government panel that reviews such transactions with foreign companies.


Mark Scheerer, Public News Service - CT