The Truth About Smithfield Foods

Smithfield Foods is the largest “pig producer” in the world, with large scale farms and slaughter operations across the US and Mexico. Smithfield kills over 31 million pigs per year for an estimated $15 Billion in annual revenues.

Smithfield’s slaughterhouse in Tar Heel, NC is considered the largest pig slaughterhouse in the world, killing about 33,000 pigs every day.

Pigs are the largest “agricultural product” in North Carolina, adding at least $2 billion to the economy. But Robert Kennedy Jr. has stated that industrial pig operations like Smithfield, “are more dangerous for our health and democracy than global terrorism.”


What other impacts does Smithfield contribute to our state?

Industrial pig operations like Smithfield produce manure that contains over 150 pathogens that are toxic to humans, responsible for thousands of premature deaths and $Billions in healthcare costs.

There are 10 million people in North Carolina and 9 million pigs.

Billions of gallons of pig feces, urine, blood and rotting pig body parts are collected in open cesspools each year in North Carolina:

  • 37 schools in North Carolina are within 2500 feet of a cesspool.
  • 288 churches are within 2500 feet of a cesspool.
  • 136 public water wells are within 2,500 feet of a cesspool.
  • 170 cesspools are within the state’s 100-year floodplain.



Scientific tests found abundant pig feces on homes and lawns, and in the air of private properties near big pig farms in North Carolina. Elevated levels of salmonella, ammonia, nitrates, pharmaceutical chemicals, and dozens of other poisonous toxins have been found in 60 percent of the watersheds in North Carolina where pig farms are located.

These fecal bacteria and toxins from pig farms have been proven to cause potentially fatal “blue baby syndrome” in infants, outbreaks of Pfiesteria piscicida, skin disorders, short-term memory loss and other cognitive problems, and various other chronic and deadly illnesses in local citizens.

What are the annual healthcare costs to North Carolinians due to Smithfield’s toxic operations? Is Smithfield helping cover the costs of healthcare and hardship it causes to North Carolinians?



During heavy rains, the cesspools overflow into local streams and rivers. 30 percent of water wells near pig farms in North Carolina have been contaminated by hog waste.

Millions of gallons of pig farm sludge, feces, blood and pig afterbirths, as well as fertilizer used in feed crops for pigs, have leaked into surrounding waterways where it has been killing aquatic life and causing algae overgrowth that chokes waterways.

The toxic runoff from Smithfield’s pig farms has killed millions of fish and other marine life, and caused local rivers and lakes to be closed off to swimming and water sports.

What are the historical and annual costs to restore and preserve North Carolina’s estuaries and freshwater supply due to Smithfield’s toxic operations? Is Smithfield covering these historical and ongoing costs? Should Smithfield fund an independent, citizen-based inquiry to determine the costs of remediation and ongoing protection from its toxic impacts on North Carolina’s environment and wildlife?

For the birth defects, disease, and premature deaths of North Carolinians, and the mass devastation to North Carolina’s wildlife and ecology caused by Smithfield Foods, how have state legislators responded?  North Carolina has the weakest, and imposes the least, environmental regulations for pig farms than any major pig-producing state in the U.S.



Scientists have traced the original H1N1 “Swine Flu” outbreak of 2009 to a Smithfield farm operation in North Carolina. In 2009-2010, the Swine Flu became a global pandemic infecting one fifth of the world’s population- over 1 billion people contracted the virus.

The swine flu pandemic eventually killed an estimated 400,000 people worldwide*. And the total global healthcare costs are estimated at over $3 Trillion.

How much financial support has Smithfield contributed to offset the $Trillions in healthcare costs and hardship caused by the swine flu pandemic that scientists say originated at its large scale pig farm?



(*please see link below for sources on the following)

When pigs live in their natural habitat in the wild, they walk and explore many miles each day, and sleep with other pigs in a bed of twigs and/or grass.

Pigs are among the most intelligent, social, and emotionally complex species on Earth, capable of great joy, love, pain and suffering. They are clean, smart, and social animals, who can recognize up to 20-30 of their peers. Isolation from, or disruption to, a pig’s social group causes the pigs grief and distress.

Their cognitive abilities include a “perception of time and anticipation of future events,” at least equal to the sensibilities of a three-year old human child. Beginning at birth, pigs communicate with each other using at least 20 distinct grunts, squeals and oinks. This communication helps piglets stay close to their mother. Pigs are loyal to their family groupings and hierarchies, with mothers showing a maternal preference for their own babies, and piglets establishing a “teat order” that reduces conflict among siblings.

Pigs are considered smarter and more emotionally intelligent than dogs, but they receive almost no protections from cruelty in North Carolina farms, and are subject to savage systematic abuse in factory farms like Smithfield.

The way that Smithfield treats pigs, from birth to slaughter, could result in felony cruelty-to-animals charges if pigs were covered by the same laws that exist to protect dogs and cats from abuse.

At Smithfield, female pigs endure constant cycles of forced pregnancy. One of the most heinous industry-wide practices is gestational crating where pigs are placed in a crate made of iron bars. The size of the crate is the exact length and width of their bodies, so they can do nothing for their entire lives but stand on a concrete floor, never turn around, never see any outdoors, never even see their tails, never move more than an inch.

The pigs are so desperate to get out of their crates that they often spend weeks trying to bite through the iron bars until their gums gush blood, bash their heads against the walls, and suffer a disease called “organ torsion” in which their organs end up mangled in the wrong places, from the sheer physical trauma of trying to escape from a tiny space or from acute anxiety.

To get a sense of a pig’s life in a gestation crate, imagine spending your entire life crammed into a metal cage so tightly that you can’t turn around, stretch your legs, lift your arms from your sides or lie down to sleep. Plus, you’re always pregnant. After being confined this way for months or years, you would suffer from infections and sores from rubbing up against the bars of your cage. Your muscles would atrophy and your bones would become weak or even break underneath you. You would have gone mad from the pain, stress and deprivation.

Yet, female pigs are force-impregnated (raped) and eventually give birth in this condition. After giving birth, mother and babies are moved to so-called farrowing crates, where they are tightly confined for nursing. The restrained mothers will often accidently trample their babies to death, trying to reach them to clean them as they suckle.

After a few weeks, any surviving piglets are taken from their mothers. With no anesthesia, the two-week old babies have their teeth clipped in half, their tails cut off, and their ears mutilated, and the males have their testicles ripped out. All these practices should be illegal, but farmed animals are specifically exempt from animal welfare protection, so almost anything goes at a Smithfield pig factory.

Smithfield manipulates their pigs’ genetics to make them grow much faster than they naturally would, which causes many pigs to suffer injury and painful joint problems. Smithfield also feeds animals large amounts of antibiotics to keep them alive in the high-stress, filthy factory-farm conditions. Many pigs die before they are fully grown, which Smithfield sees as “just a cost of doing business”.

The survivors are often too sick to stand when, finally, they are forced into crowded trucks (often by being beaten and shocked with electric prods) and driven to the Smithfield Slaughterhouse in Tar Heel, through all weather extremes and without food or water. Pork industry experts estimate that approximately 1 million pigs arrive for slaughter either crippled or already dead.

When the pigs finally reach the Smithfield slaughterhouse, terrified, weakened from their long, frightening journey, they are then hung upside down and have their throats cut, sometimes while they are still conscious.

Every day, the Smithfield Slaughterhouse in Tar Heel, North Carolina thus ends the lives of 33,000 (thirty three thousand) pigs. Such if the brief and brutal life of a Smithfield pig, a sentient being with the sensibilities of a three year old human child. It’s an abomination.

If you eat animals, there is no moral, ethical, or nutritional justification for your participation in this great evil. Just. Stop.

For sources on the above content, and for information on transitioning from eating animals to a vegan diet, please visit www.SaveTheAnimalsSaveTheEarth.org. Thank you.







Cover Photo Credit: Daniel Turbert, The Sentient Project


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