Some Pig

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No doubt because of the media frenzy over the Swine Flu–or whatever we’re calling it now–Harpers has pulled a great piece on the factory farming of swine from their archives. This ran in 2006, and takes you every step of the way through the process, from the artificial insemination facility to the National Swine Improvement Federation Conference dinner. Here’s a taste.

In just a little more than a decade, the modern hog industry has produced a tower of efficiency-maximizing products, one stacked atop the next, each innovation fixing the problem the last fix created. It is a monumental if somewhat haphazard structure, composed of slatted floors and aluminum crates, automatic sorting scales and mechanized wet-dry feeders. It is constructed of Genepacker sows, Tylan antibiotic feed, Agro-Clean liquid detergent, Argus salmonella vaccine, Goldenpig foam-tipped disposable AI catheters, CL Sow Re-placer milk substitute, and Matrix estrus synchronizer. The scientists who add their discoveries to this edifice do not see themselves as its architects. As they see it, their job is not to shift the foundations of the hog industry but to build atop its tower of technology, masking what structural flaws they can with new construction, reaching ever upward.

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Brian Spears is Senior Poetry Editor of The Rumpus and the author of A Witness in Exile (Louisiana Literature Press, 2011). His poem “Upon Reading That Andromeda Will One Day Devour Triangulum and Come For Us Next” was featured in Season 9 of Motion Poems. More from this author →