Saturday, May 9, 2009

A Few Thoughts On Swine

This post is basically a response to the mass slaughter of pigs in Egypt.

VB was born in "Porkopolis" ("The nickname Porkopolis was coined around 1835, when Cincinnati was the country's chief hog packing center, and herds of pigs traveled the streets." - Wiki) VB remembers, as young child, watching pigs marching up the ramps for slaughter to become "The Weiner The World Awaited, " at the Kahn's packing company, on Central Avenue. (You may laugh at VB, and may have heard of Cincinnati, but check here to find out what growing up there was really like.)

VB's parents (just like every other Greek in America) owned three restaurants (at different times). The last one was in a predominately black area. It was the 60's, and every so often her parents would cook up some pigs feet. It was soul food, and the regular customers were from the neighborhood. Raw hooves would be piled up over the old-fashioned white ceramic freezer. Too bad VB didn't have a camera back then, but the sight of fresh, raw pigs feet piled high, remains embedded in her memories. Not only that, but a New Years Eve tradition with The Boss Man is to down pickled pigs feet, and his mom always had a roll of Goetta in the fridge. Let's face it, regardless of ethnic background, the majority of people in, and from Cincinnati, love pork products. That includes VB. Give her a pair of ham hocks and she will cook up some retro split pea or navy bean soup for you.

By now, most people have heard or read about the swine cull here in Egypt. It is an overkill reaction to the Swine Flu aka H1N1 Virus. Let's all remember, "It's the other white meat." Besides, most of the swine that VB has actually met, are human, and according to the dictionary, "an offensive word for a person who behaves in a cruel or disgusting way towards others." This definition would apply to those who made this decision, as well as those who own factory farms. These viruses are born in industrial environments. The small breeder is typically immune, and provides a service to the community. Plus, as we've seen in the past, (mad cow), small farmers are more capable of containing the disease, so it does not spread. Factory farms do not, nor do they produce the expensive specialty meats we crave. They basically produce mass market meat, at a price, which seems cheap at the grocers, but is subsidized through governments, with our tax dollars, but has a direct impact on the environment. Who are the real losers? The small family run farms - worldwide.

For those of you out there who can't get enough of the culling, or hate swine so much, you too can be a swinefighter!

Here's a few articles to chew on:
Swine Flu Ancestor Born on U.S. Factory Farms
"“Industrial farms are super-incubators for viruses,” said Bob Martin, former executive director of the Pew Commission on Industrial Animal Farm Production, and a long-time critic of the so-called “contained animal feeding operations.”"

A U.S. Hog Giant Transforms Eastern Europe

"European hog farming is being transformed by an agricultural powerhouse operating in far-flung outposts."

"Old customs and jobs are dying and the air itself is changing, however, transformed by an American newcomer, Smithfield Foods. Almost unnoticed by the rest of the Continent, the agribusiness giant has moved into Eastern Europe with the force of a factory engine, assembling networks of farms, breeding pigs on the fast track, and slaughtering them for every bit of meat and muscle that can be squeezed into a sausage."

Local Pastured Meats: Good for You, Good for the Planet
"...Pigs, unlike the “monovore” cows, are omnivores. Along with some corn and soy, they eat whatever they can scavenge in the pasture. In the summer, they hang out and in the shade and pose for pictures like the ones we saw. When Jen said she lets her pigs dig into the ground (instead of ringing their noses to prevent it), I couldn’t help thinking that her pigs are like the teenagers with the coolest, most laid-back parents in town. If you had seen how happy those piggies were in the photos, you would probably want to be one. Maybe."

New Virus, Old Tale: Animals Share Bugs With Us
"All of this is the latest iteration of a phenomenon dating to the dawn of mankind: zoonosis. A zoonotic disease is one that spreads from animals to humans, or vice versa. Bubonic plague came from a bacterium that infects rats and can spread via fleas to humans. HIV is a virus that passed into people from a monkey. Malaria, tuberculosis, rabies, yellow fever and typhoid fever are zoonotic.

And it's a two-way street, as seen recently when a Canadian farmworker infected with the new H1N1 swine flu apparently passed the disease to a herd of pigs. When it comes to influenza, the thoroughfare between Homo sapiens and Sus scrofa -- domesticated pigs -- is something of a superhighway.

From the perspective of an influenza virus, the receptors on the lungs of a human being -- the places where the little spiky knobs on the virus can attach themselves -- look very much like the receptors in a pig. A pig's anatomy is so similar in certain respects to a human being's that pig heart valves are routinely transplanted into human heart patients."

Do I really have to cook pork until it’s not pink in the middle? How much should I worry about trichinosis?

Egypt hog slaughter will cost $54 million (Perhaps this $54 million would be better spent on the proper education and medical availability for people?)

Swine Flu: Don't Blame the Pig
"The swine flu outbreak that has sparked widespread fear — so much so that Egypt has ordered the slaughter of the country's 300,000 pigs, even though no cases have been reported there — is easy to pin on the eponymous animal from which it emerged, but the fact is, the current epidemic is little more than an accident of evolution. If pigs are to blame, so too are birds and humans...."

LIVING ON THE EDGE, WAITING FOR A SLAUGHTER "Public hysteria over swine flu has mostly been manifested as discrimination against the zebaleen. Local newspapers have published maps of zebaleen neighborhoods advising citizens to avoid these areas, and by extension their inhabitants. Women from El-Maya El-Haya have reported being refused entry onto public transport, and many city residents refuse to open the door for zebaleen, throwing their rubbish into the streets instead for fear of contracting swine flu."

11,591 PIGS SLAUGHTERED IN EGYPT "Up to press time 11,591 pigs were slaughtered. He emphasized, however, that the total number of pigs in Egypt which was erroneously reported as 300,000 is actually 156,000 only, none of which have tested positive for swine flu."

20 countries ban pork imports on flu fears
""Trading meat, whether processed or raw or frozen meat, should not be restricted because there is virtually no risk of transmission that way," the WHO's Peter Ben Embarek said."

"The other countries listed by the WHO as having imposed pork and meat restrictions are Thailand, Jordan, the Philippines, Ukraine, Lebanon, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Kazakhstan, Macedonia, Montenegro, Surinam, the United Arab Emirates and Belarus.

In Lebanon, the trade measure involves "destruction of any cargo en route from (flu) affected countries" and also orders the closure of all domestic pig farms, prohibits the slaughter of pigs, and calls for "blood testing of all pigs".

Egypt has ordered the slaughter of all its 300,000 to 400,000 pigs as a precaution against H1N1, a move the United Nations said was "a real mistake.""

Egypt persecutes Christian pig farmers in the name of swine flu

"Muslim majority country seeks reasons to kill off ’unreligious’ animals"

"This event comes a week after the Egyptian government ordered the slaughter of all the country’s 300,000 pigs even though no cases of swine flu have been reported in the country. Egyptian animal rights activist Amina Abaza deplored the slaughter of pigs and said "the decision to cull them was probably taken only because they belong to the Christians."

In defense of the farmers, the World Health Organization has said the move to slaughter every pig in the country was unnecessary because the virus is however being spread through humans.

Changed alibi

However, the rationale for killing all the pigs in the country has now taken a different cause. The Egyptian health authorities now say that the authorized killing of pigs is in a bid to campaign against unsanitary pig farming conditions, particularly in the Cairo slums where the garbage collectors live.

But the garbage collectors who engage in pig farming are all Christians, who make up the minority of the society, and with no other source of livelihood available to them, or assured them, observers have questioned the intent of the health authorities in Egypt, raising charges or religious persecution."

Egypt’s slaughter of pigs draws criticism as misguided
"International health officials say there is no reason to slaughter pigs because H1N1 cannot be passed from pigs to humans."

France-"Authorities estimate it will take up to six months to kill all the pigs in the country, according to AgencePresse, and have announced plans to buy new machinery from abroad for the specific purpose of increasing the slaughter capacity to 3,000 animals a day. Al Masry Al Youm reports that as of Monday, only 888 pigs had been killed and that Health Minister Hatem El Gebaly has announced the government has set aside 30 million Egyptian pounds to compensate farmers.

The move has received criticism from some unexpected quarters in Egypt, with the editor of the pro-government daily Rose El Yousef mocking it on the editorial page.

“Killing [the pigs] is not a solution, otherwise, we should kill the people, because the virus spreads through them,” he wrote. “The terrified members of Parliament should have concentrated on asking the government first about the preventive measures and ways of confronting the problem.”"

As Israel Ignores Swine Flu Reality, Global Risk
"After two potential cases of swine flu were discovered in Israel, and two Israelis who had just returned from Mexico with flu-like symptoms were quarantined, the Deputy Health Minister, Yakov Litzman, took the next logical step: he renamed the virus. "We will call it Mexican flu. We won't call it swine flu," Litzman declared. He chose to identify the virus with its alleged country of origin instead of pigs because pigs are not religiously permissible to eat, reports the Associated Press."

"Litzman's renaming of the new flu virus would just seem out of place and random if it had been in any other country, but in Israel--where pigs are raised on Arab lands and pork shops are firebombed out of certain neighborhoods--pork is highly politicized. Even the word for "pork" in Hebrew, chazir, is so reviled that it goes by many euphemisms: "white meat," "other meat," and "white steak.""

Turkey's Pork Shortage (And It's Not 'Cause of the Food Crisis Either)

""There are only 2,000 Greeks left in Istanbul," he grumbled. "None of us dares speak out." Curiously, all the other slaughter houses that once dealt with pork have been closed too. Lazari's reluctant to say what he suspects is happening.

"There are only 2,000 Greeks left in Istanbul," he grumbled. "None of us dares speak out.""

R.I.P. to all the poor innocents being blamed for H1N1 and slaughtered as a result. For all those little piggies, VB hopes you can all be "The Weiner The World Awaited, " and, if not perhaps you'd love to be an Oscar Meyer Weiner.

(Below): The homage to the Flying Pig in VB's hometown "Porkopolis", along the riverfront, Cincinnati, Ohio. Yes, we Cincinnatians worship swine.

And now links to some tasty pork articles and recipes:

The King of Parma Hams

Pork Knuckle, German Delight

Greek Pork From a Medieval Past (Video narration available if you don't want to read the article.)

In Greece, Slaughtering the Pig (Video narration available)

Grilling: Pork Souvlaki with Pita and Tzatziki

Polish Pork Primer

Bacon Today: "Daily Updates On The World Of Sweet, Sweet Bacon"

We’re All Meatheads Now

chefs of the Mario outside of Paris, is without a doubt a "There has been a lardy avalanche of pig prose of late—celebrations of all the edible glories of pig: its snout, ears, and tail; its blood, belly, and liver; and I suppose, if you have to be boring, its plain old meat (I wrote about the phenomenon in Slate). New York magazine food critic Adam Platt has recently dubbed carniphilicBatali/David Chang/Paul Bertolli variety “meatheads,” and emphasized that it is pig they worship above all other animals. Add one more to that list: Stéphane Reynaud, chef-owner of Villa 9 Troismeathead of the highest order.

Pigs' feet: the new superfood
"The latest anti-ageing food? Pigs' trotters. That's right, you heard it here first. In New York, the most talked-about new opening of the past couple of months has been a Japanese restaurant called Hakata Tonton, where 33 out of the 39 dishes contain pigs' feet."

One of VB's favorite recipes (and it's just as good with beef): Carolina Pulled-Pork Sandwiches

Since the pig culling in Egypt incited this post, let's visit Cairo. Earlier this year, Anthony Bourdain's Season 5 of No Reservations aired (in the States), with a segment on Egypt.

It's available on iTunes, but also on YouTube. Here is the first part of his Egypt segment, where he not only discusses food, but (on several occasions) traffic, which is great. (Um, no pigs are slaughtered or eaten during this Egypt centric episode.)

No Reservations - Egypt Part 1 of 5

If you watched the Anthony Bourdain visit Part 1 to Egypt, then you know why this photo is here.
(Below): A pigeon coop in The City of the Dead.


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