Bacon Bumption & The Pork Industry Shocker

Something that I’ve noticed a lot of over the last several years is what I’ll call Pork Pride, or Bacon Bumption – a level of  bacon obsession that is suspicious of being in response to something. Time Out Chicago has a very interesting article on the subject. This seems to have been happening in urban areas like Brooklyn, Chicago, Portland, and San Francisco over the last 5 or 6 years among an otherwise intelligent and educated culture of young people who act like they’ve just discovered the stuff (as if it weren’t already in every market in America). Celebrating with everything from bacon ice-cream, chocolate covered bacon, and bacon crochet to bacon band-aids,  bacon vodka and bacon festivals with bacon sculptors and people who are so passionate about bacon that they seethe. They should form a religion (oh wait, the Holy Church of Bacon actually exists).

I think the equation is somewhat simple, somewhat complex. People like fatty, salty stuff. People also like fads. Therefore: Fatty, salty fads are obviously popular – what’s not to like? Just put on your bacon bandanna, your bacon bumper-sticker, and pop in a bacon-mint as you stick some bacon-grease moisturizer on your ironic bacon tattoo. It’s that simple to be a connoisseur of hipster-foodieism.

Among the crafty, indy, artsy crowd – irony, nostalgia, and rejecting the status-quo are all very popular. Bacon is nostalgic. As kids, our weekend breakfasts often started with that smokey smell filling our kitchen and symbolizing mom’s love.  Bacon is an ironic food (like PBR, the cool kids want to embrace working-class iconography in an attempt to say, “hey working-class people, we’re just like you, even though we went to college for ‘philosophy’ and we just want your street cred”). And, yes, Bacon Bumption might be a seemingly dissenting response to the rise in animal advocacy. What an easy way to participate in rejecting the (strategically selected) culture! Eat a salty, fatty, fad. Wear it. Live it!

The complex part? Bacon has to be made from living pigs. Oh..yeah…that. Take off your bacon scarf for a second and consider the perspective of the highly intelligent animal known as the pig. The pig is smarter than your dog.

Penn State University conducted research between 1996 and 1998. Using positive reinforcement (treats) they showed that pigs can be taught to maneuver a modified joystick to move a cursor on a video monitor. The pigs were shown one scribble, then a few seconds later shown the same scribble along with a second. They used the joystick and cursor to distinguish between the scribble they had seen before and the one they were seeing for the first time. Just watch this video if you need further convincing.

In order to make bacon, the guys are castrated without anesthesia, sometimes by simply ripping off the testes with bare hands, the gals are kept in confinement so small they go insane and can’t even turn around or lie down comfortably while being forcibly impregnated again and again their entire lives (any feminists around?),  and ultimately all 105 million of them they are dragged to their death every year where they are often improperly stunned and boiled alive. This is all documented reality.

Our friends at Mercy For Animals have time and time again, unveiled some of the most important undercover footage of meat-production facilities that allow people to see how we treat these animals. It is because of footage like this, as unpleasant as it is to witness, that legislation is able to be passed protecting farm animals. These are animals who are not even protected under the most basic standard anti-cruelty legislation that dogs and cats are.

A new Mercy For Animals undercover investigation reveals unconscionable cruelty to mother pigs and their young piglets at a Hatfield Quality Meat supplier – “Country View Family Farms,” in Fannettsburg, Pennsylvania. The hidden camera video provides consumers with a jarring glimpse into the nightmarish world of factory pork production.

For more on pork farming, click here. Are there ways to enjoy fatty, smokey, saltiness without participating in this cruel, ecologically devastating and resource intensive industry? Sure! Check out these suggestions.

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Cedar Lake Chops

Killer Bacon Bugs, Bid on Stars & Recycling Myths

1. An Op-Ed published by the New York Times last week has linked killer MRSA, also known as the  antibiotic-resistant “Flesh Eating Bacteria” to more than 18,000 deaths per year in the US. That’s more than AIDS. And what is the source of this superbug? You guessed it: cheap pig products. “Probably from the routine use — make that the insane overuse — of antibiotics in livestock feed. This is a system that may help breed virulent “superbugs” that pose a public health threat to us all.

A small Dutch study found pig farmers there were 760 times more likely than the general population to carry MRSA (without necessarily showing symptoms), and Scientific American reports that this strain of MRSA has turned up in 12 percent of Dutch retail pork samples.

Now this same strain of MRSA has also been found in the United States. A new study by Tara Smith, a University of Iowa epidemiologist, found that 45 percent of pig farmers she sampled carried MRSA, as did 49 percent of the hogs tested.

Death on a Factory Farm

And now with the NYT review of the Documentary “Death on Factory Farm” which is taking HBO viewers by

storm, I can only wonder how these animals that are smarter than dogs (yet some dogs chew delightfully on their dried ears & limbs) will fare int he coming months? And au contraire Mike Hale and the Wiles’s community, we can all eat veggies and thrive.

2. Bid on me! Help Farm Sanctuary raise some funds, and get a private brunch for two prepared by yours truly! Also bid on items from Bill Mahr, Amy Smart, Joan Jett, Chloe Jo, Daniela Sea, Heather Mills, Matt & Nat, Wendy Kidd, Dan Piraro, Gloria Steinem, Joelle Katcher, Rachael Sage, 30 Seconds to Mars, Maureen Burke, Gabrielle Brick, Dr. Joel Fuhrman, Nigel Barker, and more!

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3. Is recycling really all that it claims to be? Have you ever been confronted by someone who is a total recycling skeptic and didn’t know what to say?

Read: “Recycling Is Too Difficult and 9 Other Obnoxious Myths

Read the Economist article: “The Truth About Recycling

Read: The Economics of Recycling

Watch: William McDonough on ‘Cradle to Cradle’

Recycling is a tricky issue because it’s really a problem of over-production and over-consumption. But one thing is certain. We do not have infinite resources on this planet, and people who are in the industries that use up these resources, and are in positions to do something about it have a responsibility to figure out how to not leave devastated ecosystems for future generations. Just because the recycling systems aren’t perfect does not justify throwing caution to the wind and continuing ‘business as usual’.

The real issue is that recycling is not enough. Reuse is better, and ‘green’ products with toxic by-products need to be more thoroughly sourced, because there are products that come from closed loop systems, also known as EIN Eco Industrial Networking or EIP- Environmental Industrial Parks. But again, the root problem is still there.

Bottler of an idea ... Crushed drink bottles at a recycling plant in Chullora

One major problem is that recycling systems are often based on dollars as opposed to ecological and personal well-being. Dollars are abstract and when you work towards achieving such an abstraction (as opposed to working towards sustainability, good health, community, friendship, etc) the consequences to the physical world become secondary, when in fact ecosystems are primary and without functioning, healthy ones, we’d all be gone. The reason recycling appears to be useless to some people is not because re-rendering products into new products is impossible – it’s because they are seeing the effects of basing a recycling system upon a system that in itself is not sustainable.

Does that mean we shouldn’t recycle? Of course not! It means we should do that, and much much more! It also means the problems haven’t been solved and we need to get some serious critical thinking done.