CAFO Pig Manure?
Let's Visit North Carolina.

Pig Manure from large industrial hog factories are particularly noxious and destructive; just ask anyone along the Neuse River in North Carolina.

The destruction of the Neuse River is a particularly horrendous case study and reveals how Mother Nature will get even with us for abuses against her.  From David Kirby's "Animal Factory" book we get the following account.

In the early 90's, strange things started happening to the river and fish and humans who boated or swam in the water.  Fish started showing up with circular sores, skin eaten down to the bone, and dying by the millions. 

People started experiencing similar sores that refused to heal.  The immediate suspect was algae blooms causing oxygen depletion in the water, but that would not account for the lesions on fish and people. 

Also boaters and fishermen on the river would become disoriented or even pass out, awakening many miles downriver and not having a clue what had happened or where they were.

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Meet the Cell From Hell

Eventually a new terror was discovered with the name pfiesteria piscicida, an organism called a dinoflagellate, a one-celled creature with superpowers.

It is highly toxic, can kill millions of fish in a short time and then disappear, lying dormant in a cyst like state for extended periods on the river bottom. 

Pfiesteria picicida, the cell from hell

When it again detects the presence of live fish or a swimming or wading human, it then breaks free of its cyst state and moves toward its victim, using a whip like tail for locomotion and steering. 

After releasing its potent toxin to stun the fish, it goes to work feasting on the flesh.  After the entire population of fish is dead or dying, its cycle starts anew.  It goes back to muck of the river bottom and waits for the next meal to swim by.

Pfiesteria piscicida lesions

Pfiesteria destroys the fish’s skin causing hideous sores and affects the immune and nervous system.  In 1990 two million fish died in the Neuse River between August and October.  (p. 18-20, Animal Factory)

Some good detective work by Rick Dove traced the source of the pfiesteria outbreak to the pig manure from industrial size hog CAFOs up river and thus started a long, protracted battle between The Riverkeeper Alliance and the southeastern North Carolina factory hog farms.

How Does Big Pig Operate?

To understand the scope of the environmental problems from hog CAFOs, we need to take a quick look at the production line.

Jonathan Foer presents a very graphic description of the horrors in a pig CAFO in his book, Eating Animals".  Pig production happens in three stages.

The first is the breeding step or the farrowing operation as it is called.  Industrial pigs aren't allowed to have sex so all the lady pigs (sows) are artificially inseminated and placed in small jail cells called gestation crates.  Hopefully these will be outlawed in the near future, legislation is at hand.

There is no room to stand up or turn around and they are considered so cruel in Europe that they have been banned. Some states are now phasing them out due to their extreme inhumane and barbaric nature.

Pig manure; typical gestation crate

After giving birth and weaning, young female pigs (gilts) are set aside as replacement sows.  Hog nurseries can contain as many as 2500 piglets, all kept in pens in long barns. 

The males (boars) are castrated, usually with a pair of pliers without any anesthesia, and are now known as barrows.  Their little corkscrew tails are also cut off at this time, a very painful process called "tail docking". 

The pigs will never go outside, never breathe fresh air, never see the sun, never grub in dirt or wallow in mud, and never chase siblings or have sex with a mate. 

At the nursery they are fattened to about 50 or 60 pounds then transferred to a "finishing facility" where they are fed high calorie grains till they reach market weight of 250 pounds, at about six months of age, still in their adolescence.

Take a look at the book, "The Pig Who Sang to the Moon" to truly understand the torture that the factory farm system inflicts on these intelligent, feeling, captive animals.  There has to be a better way.

At market weight the pigs are packed side to side in the small indoor pens with little room to move around.  The crowding results in more infectious diseases, stressed animals with weakened immune systems, and bloody fights.

No matter what stage of the operation we look at, we still see huge amounts of pig manure that accumulate, has to be stored, and eventually ends up as an uninvited guest in the environment.

How Big are the Environmental Problems
From CAFO Pig Manure?

Again referencing Jonathan Foer's "Eating Animals"; a typical hog CAFO will produce 7.2 million pounds of pig manure annually. 

Smithfield kills more hogs per year than the combined populations of America's top thirteen cities and that includes New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Houston and Dallas.  In numbers, that would be about 31 million hogs. 

On a per capita basis, those 31 million Smithfield pigs turn out 281 pounds of pig manure for every American. 

Righteous Porkchop Image:  A righteous read; click on the image, read the review, buy the's a keeper.

This isn't just ordinary pig manure that you would normally see in an open pasture, nicely fertilizing the ground.  This is a highly toxic waste product of the industrialization of pig production. 

Jeff Tietz in his Rolling Stone article "Boss Hog", February 14, 2007, describes this hazardous waste as a mixture of "ammonia, methane, hydrogen sulfide, carbon monoxide, cyanide, phosphorus, nitrates and heavy metals. 

It is also an incubator for over 100 microbial pathogens including salmonella, cryptosporidium, streptococci and giardia.  We can now add to the list, the cell from hell, pfiesteria piscicida, described above. 

This is not the benign pig manure that traditional family hog farms, operating on a much smaller scale, had to deal with.

Jeff Tietz's article can be read in its entirety at Boss Hog.

Rick Dove of Dove Imaging took many, if not most, of the photos used in current books and articles on the effects of CAFO operations on the environment as well as the animals and fish.

For more information on Rick Dove and his vitally important contributions to the Waterkeeper Alliance with a link to the Waterkeeper Organization, follow the link below.  It is an incredible source of information.

Specifically, be sure to look at his "Consequences", "Fish Kills" and "Hurricane Floyd" tabs in his site menu.  For all of this, be sure to thank Mr. Joe Luter III, Chairman of Smithfield Foods.

No story is ever one-sided and Smithfield did issue a 29 point rebuttal to the Jeff Tietz "Boss Hog" article. Unfortunately it is no longer on-line since Smithfield was acquired by a huge Chinese state-owned pork producing holding company in 2013. The Chinese have continually demonstrated that they couldn't care less about environmental damage in the U.S. from their pig farms. We need to keep that in mind when we go browsing our grocery store meat counters.

Just keep in mind Rick Dove's photos and the history of industrial hog farming in North Carolina detailed in David Kirby's Animal Factory book.  You decide.

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