On Pork, Pigs and Hogwash
Remember when the pork industry started running those commercials — “Pork: The Other White Meat?” , or “Life is just a bowl of pork chops” was another good one. And then remember when we learned that we had been paying for the pork industry’s advertising campaign all along? The National Pork Board uses tax money to pay for them. The National Pork Board is part of the Department of Agriculture.
Now the National Pork Board has a website — www.porkbeinspired.com — that has pork recipes, pork nutrition information, and a pork blog called “I ♥ Pork: The Latest from Pork, Knife and Spoon.” The website comes up first in a Google search. Did our tax dollars pay for that, too?
Pork, of course, is food. Pigs, on the other hands, are animals. We have different terminology for animals when we eat them – sheep/mutton, veal/calf, pork/ pig, beef/cow, sweet meats/animal brains. And we have a different word when we have raised the animal specifically for food – cattle/cows, hogs/pigs, etc. Beef comes from cattle; pork comes from hogs.
This is only an issue for a minority of the world’s humans. Pigs are not kosher (cloven hooves, no cud) nor do they pass Islamic muster (the Koran says God “has forbidden you only… the flesh of swine”). Rastafarians, Ethiopian Orthodox Christians, and Seventh Day Adventists aren’t supposed to eat pigs either. That wipes out a lot of people without even counting vegetarians (including Buddhists) or vegans.
So the National Pork Board has not only a small constituency but a small audience, too. We would reach more citizens if we used our swine-specific tax dollars for a blog called “I ♥ Heart Pigs.” There are about 2 billion pigs on the planet on any given day and there are more pigs than people in North Carolina. We have the Palwan Bearded Pig, the Warty Pig, the Wild Boar, and the Domestic Pig (sus domestica). There are also those that descend from the men that Circe turned into pigs in the Odyssey. Happy pigs root around for bugs, truffles, seeds, flowers and nuts. Happy pigs sigh in the mud. Pigs are smart, so they say. We keep pot-bellied pigs as pets.
We have imaginary pigs: Porky Pig and his girlfriend Petunia, Little Pig Robinson, Wilbur, the Three Little Pigs. And of course, Babe. George Orwell had a bunch of pigs in Animal Farm — Snowball, Squealer, Old Major, and the big bad Napoleon. Both the Beatles and Pink Floyd sang about pigs.
We anthropomorphize pigs. Winston Churchill said that “Dogs look up to man. Cats look down to man. Pigs look us straight in the eye and see an equal.” The pigs in Animal Farm changed the law to read “Some animals are more equal than others.” Happy people are said to be as happy as a pig in mud. People who are getting swindled (no pun intended) are said to be buying “a pig in a poke,” in other words, no pig at all. The “poke” is the pocket, or bag. “I will never buy the pig in the poke — there’s many a foul pig in a fair cloak.”
But the thing that bothers me the most about the “the white meat” campaign is not that my tax dollars paid for it or that it reflects the insidious relationship between industry and government, or that eating meat is bad for the environment. It’s that pork is not, actually, a white meat. All you have to do is go to the USDA’s Pork Fact Sheet to learn that “pork is classified a red meat…”
Kim Egan is Partner in the firm DLA Piper LLP
You can also follow her here on Twitter: http://twitter.com/kkegan