So while it’s a little strange that people might eat less pork because the words “swine flu” have been in the news lately, it’s kind of pathetic to see Food Network host and Smithfield pork spokesperson Paula Deen putting out a news release like this:
“You know y’all, the Secretary of Agriculture has said it’s safe to eat pork,” said Deen, restaurateur, best-selling author and the host of “Paula’s Home Cooking” and “Paula’s Party” on the Food Network. “You can eat all the pork you want. You are not going to catch the flu from eating pork.”
After witnessing what she calls myths and misinformation surrounding the safety of pork, Deen was moved to speak out on the subject. She decided to make her views public when she considered the hardship many were experiencing due to a misunderstanding regarding pork safety.
“There’s a lot of people that’s been affected by this,” Deen said. “It also affects our pork farmers, our truck drivers, our grocery stores. It affects the whole economy.”
Oh, for crying out loud. The pork industry has been the biggest WATB’s about the swine flu thing, and in the best traditions of American corporate culture have set the PR hacks to busily spinning away, going so far as to insist traditional media outlets not use the term “swine flu.” Which is flat out ridiculous.
Say, what about the workers, citizens and consumers affected in other ways by Smithfield? From a 2006 Rolling Stone article:
A lot of pig shit is one thing; a lot of highly toxic pig shit is another. The excrement of Smithfield hogs is hardly even pig shit: On a continuum of pollutants, it is probably closer to radioactive waste than to organic manure. The reason it is so toxic is Smithfield’s efficiency. The company produces 6 billion pounds of packaged pork each year. That’s a remarkable achievement, a prolificacy unimagined only two decades ago, and the only way to do it is to raise pigs in astonishing, unprecedented concentrations.
A lot of consumer disgust isn’t being caused by flu fears, it’s being caused by disgust at how food is produced and handled. To be fair, Smithfield is just one corporation, albeit a giant corporation with operations in the United States, Mexico and Europe.
Whether you eat meat or not, everyone is impacted in some way by the flaws in our food production and safety system. The Peanut Corporation of American salmonella cases showed that. You’d think giant corporations concerned about profits would realize that until proper safeguards are put in place, and safe, humane production techniques become the norm, any part of the food sector is vulnerable to being rejected by consumers. Ask the tomato growers in Florida or the beef producers hammered by mad cow and e-coli scares.
Making dinner shouldn’t be an exercise in bio-hazard management. At some point consumers will rebel to the point that changes in the entire system happen, it’s just a matter of time.
Putting out celebrity news releases instead of dealing with underlying consumer concerns is laughable.