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Safety Concerns Arise from China’s Purchase of Smithfield Foods

Thursday, May 30, 2013 - 3:45pm
Close up of two pigs

With yesterday’s news that Smithfield Foods, one of the oldest and largest pork producers in the country, has agreed to be sold to a meat processing company based in China, we’re once again reminded how important it is for consumers to be aware of where meat products come from.

According to news reports, Smithfield’s new ownership is primarily intended to export pork products to China, which is prohibited from sending its pork and beef to the U.S due to food safety concerns for both humans and companion animals. Increasingly, American consumers are concerned with the conditions in which their food is produced. Smithfield is one of many companies phasing out gestation crates, horrendous metal-barred cages that keep breeding sows in spaces so tight they cannot even turn around. It had pledged to remove these archaic cages from its international operations by 2022, and we are encouraged to hear the company state that it plans to keep this commitment.

What You Can Do

What can consumers do when faced with difficult issues surrounding food safety and the welfare of animals? Animal health and consumer safety can be encouraged through expanded education. If meat is part of your diet, there are several product-labeling programs that require higher standards of care for farm animals. They include:

Certified Humane*
Animal Welfare Approved
Global Animal Partnership
Food Alliance
American Grassfed

Similarly, the government is increasingly responding to consumer demand for more transparency around the conditions in which our food is produced. Just last week, the US Department of Agriculture approved mandatory country-of-origin labeling on steaks, ribs and other cuts of meat that will indicate where the animal was born, raised and slaughtered. This is a huge step in the right direction and will help consumers make informed choices when shopping for their families.

For more information, please visit the Farm Animal section of

*The ASPCA supports this program through grants funding