By the end of the twentieth century, hog farming had replaced tobacco as the backbone of eastern North Carolina’s economy. Today, the hog industry is a source of both contention and pride in the area. In rural Duplin County, the home of Smithfield Foods, hogs outnumber people 40 to 1.
Open-air lagoons store massive amounts of hog waste, which is then sprayed over the surrounding fields as fertilizer. For decades, residents have claimed that these waste management practices cause a host of health issues, environmental harm, and loss of property value.
Reporter-producer Otis Gray travels to Duplin County, where a group of concerned citizens believes that industrial hog farms disproportionately affect low-income communities of color. Residents and activists have now filed a civil rights complaint with the EPA, and they hope that their voices will be heard.
Otis Gray is a storyteller and radio producer from rural Vermont. He is host & producer of the Hungry podcast, a show about food, the stories behind it, and the power of what we eat in a polarized world.
Credits and Resources:
Explore the links to learn more about the organizations and issues discussed in this episode of Gravy.
Duplin REACH (Rural Empowerment Association for Community Help)
Whole Hog: The Power of Pork (a multimedia project from the UNC-Chapel Hill school of Journalism.)
“Environmental injustice in North Carolina’s hog industry.” (a study from the department of epidemiology at the UNC-Chapel Hill school of Public Health.)