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November 9, 2009

The True Cost of Cheap Pork

"Pig Business" shows hidden social and environmental costs of factory farming

The Humane Society of the United States

  • Factory farms intensively confine animals behind bars. Tracy Worcester

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    Pigs are packed together tightly inside factory farms. Tracy Worcester

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    Gestation crates immobilize pregnant pigs. Tracy Worcester

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    Animals on factory farms are often in miserable shape. Tracy Worcester

by Michael Greger, M.D.

The newly released documentary Pig Business follows environmental campaigner Tracy Worcester in her four-year investigation into the intensive pig farming industry.

The film reveals the devastating effects industrial pig production has on the environment, as well as the health and welfare of animals and communities plagued by factory farms. Though primarily filmed in Europe, the primary subject of the documentary is U.S.-based Smithfield Foods, the largest pork producer in the world.

Pig Business reveals the dark underbelly of the industry—the impact on those who work in its factory farms, those who live near them, and on the animals themselves. Factory farmed pork is only cheap because the industry has externalized the true costs onto the broader community.

Nearby residents suffer from the polluted water and air, but we are all affected by animal-to-human diseases—swine flu, Nipah virus, Strep suis, the "superbug" MRSA, and even Ebola—that may spread from these operations. Pig factory farms have been found to be a breeding ground for both animal and human disease.

More than five years ago, the oldest and largest organization of public health professionals in the world—the American Public Health Association—called for a moratorium on factory farms. After watching Pig Business, viewers will have a better understanding of why. The full film is available online on YouTube

Dr. Michael Greger is director of Public Health and Animal Agriculture for The Humane Society of the United States.

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