Do you know where your Easter ham came from?

Easter is coming soon. I am really looking forward to cooking and spending time with my family. Ham is the traditional Easter food here in the US. Back in the olden days, pigs were slaughtered in the fall. Since there was no refrigeration, the pork that wasn’t eaten during the winter was cured for spring. This curing process took a long time and the first hams were ready right around Easter. This made ham a natural choice for Easter dinner. Many people are heading out this weekend and  picking up an Easter ham for their fancy dinner  but they may want to rethink that decision.

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The Best Easter Ham and Why You Should Choose A Small Local Farm

 Rethink Your Easter Ham

(PLEASE NOTE: these are the facts I have found on Wikipedia and PETA as of 2012.  These statistics may have changed since this article was written)

Smithfield Foods controls 26% of the U.S. pork market. They produce pork products for over 50 different brands and 200 gourmet foods. Of the 60 million pigs that went to slaughter in 2006 they produced 27 million of them.
Volume is not my main concern regarding Smithfield (and actually MOST large scale pork companies) but the actual quality of care and impact on the environment. While I don’t always support PETA and the Humane Society, some of the issues that surround companies like this are just too serious to ignore. When you shop for your Easter ham this holiday season, here are a few things for you to Think About This Thursday:
  • Pregnant sows are confined to 7 ft gestation crates, where they spend most of their lives. Eventually, the animal gets so big that it cannot even turn around anymore. Smithfield has suggested that they are planning on doing away with this practice as of 2017 but there has also been indication that they are backpeddling on this issue.
  • Piglets weaned at about three weeks old and moved without the sow to the “nursery”. They are housed in groups of about 15 in large stalls with wire mesh floors.
  • The animals reach 250–280 pounds by the age of 25 weeks, packed into trucks without food and water and delivered to a slaughterhouse.
  • Millions of gallons of untreated fecal matter is produced and stored in the lagoons at these pig production facilities. There have been numerous health complaints and fines regarding this waste and people have actually died from falling in them accidentally.

Why You Should Rethink Your Easter Ham

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More About Smithfield Hams

Smithfield hired people and formed committees to look at some of these issues but the issue surrounding the factory farming of pigs is larger than just one corporation. These huge factory farms are subject to inspection by the federal government and clearly those representatives are aware of the gestational cages, wire floors, and lagoons full of pig waste. It’s hard to miss issues like that.
If you want a closer look at some of the conditions that these animals live in, check out the HBO documentary Death on a Factory Farm.  No animal should live in conditions like this.  So, what can we, as consumers, do about this issue? We can stop giving these large scale hog farms our money!
heritage pig loose in dirt

Finding Humanely Raised Pork Products

Don’t know where to find sustainably raised pork? Try Eat Wild or Local Harvest for small farms in your area. Check natural grocery stores like Whole Foods who are more selective about who they buy their Easter ham from.
Animal welfare needs to become a bigger concern to our government agencies because clearly these large scale corporations are only concerned with their bottom line. They are driven by profit, not concern for the animals they raise.  Want more Eco friendly Easter ideas? Here are 5 tips to help you go green this Easter.  You can also check out my post on why organic meat is worth the price.  

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