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Smithfield, Big Meat Exporting More Pork to China

Smithfield Foods has been trying to scare us away from restricting its activities at its coronavirus-riddled Sioux Falls plant by warning that any disruption of its vital activities could lead to a meat shortage. Yet even as they lobbied for an executive order from the White House to immunize their facilities from state shutdown orders, Smithfield and other mega-meatmongers have been shipping more pork to China:

U.S. Pork Supply amidst coronavirus

[Graphics from Ally J. Levine, Minami Funakowski, Tom Polansek, and Karl Plume, “A Meaty Problem,” Reuters, 2020.05.11.]

Smithfield, which China’s WH Group bought for $4.7 billion in 2013, was the biggest U.S. exporter to China from January to March, according to Panjiva, a division of S&P Global Market Intelligence. Smithfield shipped at least 13,680 tonnes by sea in March, Panjiva said, citing its most recent data.

Smithfield, the world’s biggest pork processor, said in April that U.S. plant closures were pushing retailers “perilously close to the edge” on supplies [Kristin Hergert, “As U.S. Meat Workers Fall Sick and Supplies Dwindle, Exports to China Soar,” Reuters via KELO Radio, 2020.05.11].

Our Dear Leader might be able to make a case for ordering American workers to slaughter if their dangerous labors were serving our national survival. But if workers are sacrificing for China’s gain

Trump is facing criticism from lawmakers, consumers and workers for putting plant employees at risk — in part to guarantee China’s meat supply.

“That tragic outcome is all the worse when the food being processed is not going to our nation’s families,” U.S. Representative Rosa DeLauro, a Democrat who chairs a House panel that oversees federal spending on health programs, told Reuters [Ally J. Levine, Minami Funakowski, Tom Polansek, and Karl Plume, “A Meaty Problem,” Reuters, 2020.05.11.].

Donald, Kristi, remind me: for whom are we working and risking our lives?


  1. Donald Pay 2020-05-11 07:22

    China had an outbreak of African Swine Fever last year. That and culling cut hog numbers by 40 percent. They modestly upped their meat purchases from the USA because of that, though they try not to buy from US sources due to Trump’s tarriff war.

  2. o 2020-05-11 09:25

    America (profits) first.

  3. jerry 2020-05-11 09:55

    Trademarks, Ivanka’s and Donald’s trademarks must be protected. What the hey, if a few hundred thousand Americans die to protect that, that’s the cost of doing trump business.

    Phase 1 of the dumbarse trade deal with China, means death for American workers, what does Phase 2 have in store for us?

    Still, no tests for the masses, means more Mass’s for the workers until there will be no workers, what a plan. Seems like the only way a person can get a test is to go on the production line of Smithfield. Get exposed and catch the virus…but you get a test that may or may not be free. What a country, No?

  4. John 2020-05-11 10:25

    Trumpee’s disruptions to the nation’s meat supply mean that consumers may see 30% less meat in supermarkets by the end of May, at prices 20% higher than in 2019.
    Congratulations, Kristi, your boy changed American eating habits (for the better) and crippled a(nother) South Dakota industry.

    If state government had a brain they would work to return sustainable agriculture to the state and small towns.

  5. Debbo 2020-05-11 18:21

    I have seen several ads for meat cutters lately. Most are for factories, but many are for small shops now doing big business. I think the number of such shops and the size of each one is going to increase. Americans have seen the error of meat monopolies.

  6. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2020-05-11 19:53

    Ads for meat cutters? I would think someone willing to take a little training, wield a knife, and get kinda gross could make good money… assuming we’re all willing to pay a fair price for meat.

    I wonder: could farmers pay better wages to local hired hands to butcher their meat, sell at local meat shops for prices not much over what we pay for Smithfield meat now, and still come out ahead because we cut out the corporate middlemen?

  7. Debbo 2020-05-11 20:32

    The local meat shops I’m aware of are farmers markets and small town lockers. There are about a dozen independent stores in the Minnesota metro that sell their own sausages, jerky and other specialty cuts. I think most do not do their own butchering.

    In addition, halal shops are very busy and independent. They use every type of meat except pork. Lamb, mutton and goat are their specialties. Some do their own butchering but many do not. I’d think they would be a good market for West River sheep ranchers. The ranchers could ship their stock live or perhaps get an imam from Denver to certify them halal.

    I wonder if, rather than requiring an imam to be there for slaughtering, the rancher could videotape it? The chief issue is how the animal is killed and bled out. Many of the more remote ranchers have their own butchering equipment. I think it might be worth looking into. Is SD’s Ag Dept up to the task?

  8. jerry 2020-05-11 21:34

    Art Cullen, editor in Storm Lake, Iowa has a doozy of an article up about the way things are.

    ” It’s hard for many to admit that it didn’t work out. A tragic comedy of lawlessness mixed with buffoonery nears its epilogue.

    “The vibe is: a lot of people figured out that the boss isn’t worried about them. My veteran friends, they don’t like what’s going on. They’re looking for leadership in government and the workplace. Really, everybody is.”

    Folks from Milwaukee to Muskegon were having their misgivings before the pandemic shut us down in March. Trade wars with China, Mexico, Canada and Europe knocked the wind out of steel wheels and soybean prices. Workers at John Deere, the huge tractor builder, were getting pink slips in Davenport. Ethanol plants were idled. Farmers in north-west Iowa’s Sioux county, where Trump took 90% of the vote, said last fall they would not vote for him again. The Iowa Corn Growers proclaimed they were “fed up” after Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency allowed 31 petroleum refineries to shun ethanol blending requirements. Ethanol comes from corn. Corn is a religious totem in these parts.”

    There, that may help you all feel a little better after that read. We have a lot of work to do, but we must rid ourselves of the two evil plagues, trump and his twin, Covid19.

  9. Donald Pay 2020-05-11 22:11

    African Swine Fever had subsided in China, but appears to be making a bit of a comeback. There are outbreaks in other countries, too, so the hog market might be affected by this pig pandemic, as well as by US packer slowdowns. China does have meat in deep cold storage, so if they have to they can pull it out of there to keep their supplies more or less stable.

    My daughter says China might actually prefer to buy whole live animals and ship them over to have them butchered by workers who are regularly tested and found in good health.

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