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Dispelling the Hog Factory Myths

by Joe Fagan
Des Moines, Iowa

Who is more efficient?

The factory farm spin doctors want to tell us that the hog factories are more efficient. But . . .

A Kansas State University study of 91 farrow-to-finish farms regarding the efficiency of larger vs smaller producers showed that:

  • Half of the small producers (under 200 litters) were more efficient than the average of all farms
  • Half of the larger producers (over 200 litters) were less efficient than the average of all.
  • One third of the smallest producers (under 100 litters) were more effictent than the average of all farms.

In 1993/94 the Nebraska Swine Enterprise Records and Analysis Program analyzed the most profitable one-third of the operations. the most profitable operations:

  • had 145 sows
  • sold 15% fewer hogs and received similar prices
  • had lower costs -- $33.60 cwt vs $45.28

Who provides economic development?

Factory farm spin docotrs want us to believe that large scale confinement operations are good economic development. University research does not back this up.

Research done at the University of Missouri in 1994 by John Ikerd showed that:

  • Independent hog producers created three times as many jobs as contract producers -- such as Murphy Farms
  • for each 12,000 slaughter hos produced by contract producers (e.g. Murphy Farms) there was a net loss of over 18 jobs

Research done at Virginia Tech compared the impact on the local economy of several independent producers adding 5,000 sows (e.g. 50 producers adding 100 sows each) to corporate farming adding 5,000 sows. The independent producer system provided:

  • 10% more permanent jobs than the large corporate operation
  • a 20% larger increase in local retail sales
  • a 37% larger increase in per capita income

An analysis by the Center for Rural Affairs showed that between 1987 and 1992 North Carolina doubled hog production from 2.5 million to 5.4 million hogs but the number of hog producers dropped 48 percent. In the two counties that have 44% of the hogs:

  • the number of farm jobs fell by over one third
  • the population has been stagnant
  • sales and property taxes are behind the state's own growth rate.

Who's Fooling Who?

The "economic development" and "efficiency" arguments spouted by factory farm advocates is nothing but chuck anf jive rhetoric to:

  • give respectable cover to politicians who want to take their money
  • fool others who don't know any better
  • put a pretty face on a blatant attempt by large corporations to take the hog business away from family farmers
  • make average farmers feel they are out of date.

Joe Fagan is a member of Iowa CCI - Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement. Their address is 1607 East Grand Avenue, Des Moines, Iowa 50318-3504. Phone: (515) 266-5213.

Published in In Motion Magazine March 25, 1996.