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"Let's stop harvesting brains."
June 27, 2011 5:17 PM   Subscribe

The Spam Factory's Dirty Secret. Undocumented workers, an autoimmune mystery traced to aerosolized pork brains from increased line production speed, and what sounds like one of the worst jobs in America.
posted by availablelight (46 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite

 
> aerosolized pork brains

Three word's I thought I would never see together in that order, yet I am sure somewhere there is an engineer tome about the MDS issues of pork brains, factors related to their Aerosolization, and suggestions for mitigating them. In fact "Mitigating factors to prevent Aerosolization of Pork Brains" sounds like the papers title.
posted by mrzarquon at 5:20 PM on June 27, 2011 [12 favorites]


"Waste not, want not."
posted by notyou at 5:25 PM on June 27, 2011


Yeah, the fact that pig brains get aerosolized in this factory has really put me off those vacuum-sealed tins containing dense bricks of bright pink salted matter.
posted by tumid dahlia at 5:25 PM on June 27, 2011 [3 favorites]


mrzarquon beat me to it.
And, yknow...after "aerosolized pork brains", there really isn't anything left one can add. Good night, Mefites!
posted by Thorzdad at 5:26 PM on June 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


On the plus side, if you survive long enough to retire to Hawaii, you will be a god there.
posted by Etrigan at 5:53 PM on June 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


This isn't the Hormel I grew up with...

...oh wait.
posted by Sphinx at 5:57 PM on June 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yeah no kidding. Hormel. I don't eat a lot of meat, but do love teh pepperonis. Since I went to school in MN, I learned firsthand about what Hormel is all about.

I do not purchase Hormel products. If the only pep they have is Hormel, I'll have something else.
posted by Windopaene at 6:02 PM on June 27, 2011


Yeah, but think of the benefits. All the Viagra, penis extenders, and cheap Rolex watches they could ever want!
posted by crunchland at 6:19 PM on June 27, 2011


Threatening deportation of undocumented workers (after 10+ years of service) after they develop adverse health effects from their work environment.

Is this business plan patentable? (or is Hormel prior art?)
posted by el io at 6:26 PM on June 27, 2011 [3 favorites]


It now disgusts me that I have incorporated molecules of Hormel product into my body. Kitschy adoration for Spam will no longer move me.

I hope none of the molecules I incorporated are still extant.
posted by TheRedArmy at 6:27 PM on June 27, 2011


For those who love pork but decry Hormel, don't kid yourselves that any other industrial meat processor is any better. From the horrendous conditions at their contract pig farms to the processing floor, they're all pretty much the same.
posted by introp at 6:28 PM on June 27, 2011 [17 favorites]


Is there no... ethically produced version of SPAM? I know how ridiculous that sounds, but I actually really like SPAM and I would love for there to be a better alternative.
posted by danny the boy at 6:32 PM on June 27, 2011


I suspect that this article is going to go the way of The Jungle. It's supposed to make us sympathetic to the plight of workers toiling under unacceptable conditions in our industrial food factories. Instead, people think, "eew, aerosolized pig brains!" and rail about how they don't want to eat gross food, and demand superficial reforms to the food engineering process.
posted by decathecting at 6:40 PM on June 27, 2011 [7 favorites]


My mom used to serve Spam all the time when I was a kid. I didn't think there was anything wrong until I opened one of the cans myself and it was all gelatin and goo. I was about to throw it out but she said that was normal. When I left home, I never heard another good word about Spam and gradually realized how terrible it is. Looking back on it, I don't know why we ever used it. Cost? Real meat, even real pork, couldn't have been that expensive in the middle of Farm Country, IA.
posted by DU at 6:47 PM on June 27, 2011


Korea, famous beneficiary of left-behind GI spam, is really crazy about the stuff. "The pink luncheon meat with its gelatinous shell is deemed too nice to buy for oneself (in South Korea), and 40 percent of the Spam sold here is in the form of gifts." I taught English there for a year, and sure enough, my fellow teachers and I received an elaborately packaged (molded plastic lined with gold faux-lour) SPAM gift boxes, containing six packages I believe the occasion was, get this, Thanksgiving. I developed quite the affinity for it while in Korea, but have not since had the urge.
posted by obscurator at 6:50 PM on June 27, 2011


Porcine Endogenous Retroviruses (PERVs) are more than terrifying enough from a public health prospective that, at least a few years ago when surgeons were trying out experimental procedures, recipients of pig organs were required to prove that they would or could not reproduce in order to prevent the viruses from getting into the human gene pool.

This is fucking ridiculous.
posted by Blasdelb at 7:03 PM on June 27, 2011 [4 favorites]


There is nothing uniquely disgusting or "mystery meat" about Spam. It's pork shoulder and ham. Have you had pulled pork? Yeah, pork shoulder usually. It's tasty.

The situation for the workers is the issue here.

/currently vegetarian, always gets weird looks when I describe how tasty meat products are.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 7:11 PM on June 27, 2011 [4 favorites]


Would this be a good time to bring up bacon?
posted by telstar at 7:12 PM on June 27, 2011


Just to display my complete ignorance of labour law: The article goes on and on about how the doctor recommended 15 min. breaks every 2 hrs, and how this was a sticking point with QPP. I thought breaks like this were mandatory, like in the law mandatory, for all workers...
posted by selenized at 7:15 PM on June 27, 2011


Q. Are breaks and lunches required by law?

A. The mandatory break law only applies to minors under the age of 18 and they must be given a thirty (30) minute meal period after five (5) consecutive hours of work. Company policy dictates break and lunch periods for anyone over the age of 18.


Welcome to the United States!
posted by furiousxgeorge at 7:19 PM on June 27, 2011


(Oops, that was NJ law, but there is no federal mandatory breaks either)
posted by furiousxgeorge at 7:20 PM on June 27, 2011


When must breaks and meal periods be given?

The FLSA does not require breaks or meal periods be given to workers. Some states may have requirements for breaks or meal periods. If you work in a state which does not require breaks or meal periods, these benefits are a matter of agreement between the employer and the employee (or the employee's representative).

posted by furiousxgeorge at 7:22 PM on June 27, 2011


Korea, famous beneficiary of left-behind GI spam, is really crazy about the stuff.

True. There's a Korean holiday called Chuesok that would find it's closest analog in something like Thanksgiving. Anyway, it's custom to give a gift set of something at that time and there are these like $80 Spam gift sets that are like 10 cans of Span and a few bottles of Olive Oil and stuff. Weird. They love to fry it, sneak it in soup. It's a frequent side dish at restaurants and the like. I've never quite developed a taste for it.
posted by GilloD at 7:23 PM on June 27, 2011


furiousxgeorge: it still weirds me out how much ends up just being company policy. Corporate policies seem to be so consistent across all the shitty jobs I've ever worked I just figured it was the law.

Just for a point of reference: in Alberta (where I live) a total of at least 30min. for a shift longer than 5hrs is mandatory. But I've never heard of a place offering just the minimum for a full-time shift.
posted by selenized at 7:34 PM on June 27, 2011


I work 12 hour shifts with no breaks, luckily my job is easy enough to be indistinguishable from a 12 hour break.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 7:36 PM on June 27, 2011


yikes! I can't imagine not having a break, if only just to sit down and bitch about work for a while.
posted by selenized at 7:44 PM on June 27, 2011


Doesn't my employer have to give me a break?
The state law requires employers to provide restroom time and sufficient time to eat a meal. If the break is less than 20 minutes in duration, it must be counted as hours worked. Time to use the nearest restroom must be provided within each four consecutive hours of work. Meal time applies to employees who work eight or more consecutive hours (see Minnesota Statutes 177.253, 177.254 and Minnesota Rules 5200.0120).
posted by Kirth Gerson at 7:56 PM on June 27, 2011


danny the boy - there are lots of different lines of "luncheon meat" exported out of the PRC. I agnostic regarding if production practices are any better/worse than those in the USA.

The difference is, many of the brands I've tried are far superior to Hormel's SPAM in terms of quality. Many have short chunks of whole meat, muscle bundles intact, and typically less globules of semi-solid fat. Overall tastier, too. I love them sliced thin and egg-battered fried. Sometimes in sandwiches.

But seeing your profile pic, you're probably already familiar with these.

DU - yeash, totally. I don't understand why tinned luncheon meat costs so much.
posted by porpoise at 7:56 PM on June 27, 2011


Hormel sucks.

Spam is the devil's crotch cheese.

What we do to our workers in this country is wrong. Celebrate capitalism, my ass.
posted by BlueHorse at 8:11 PM on June 27, 2011 [3 favorites]


I really thought this was going to be about email, and I couldn't IMAGINE what they were doing to all those poor kids in India slaving away at their workstations.

"Type faster, Hadji, or we'll spray you with the pork brains again!!!"
posted by Curious Artificer at 8:42 PM on June 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


"I feel thrown away," she said, finally. "Like a piece of trash. Before, I worked hard and willingly for QPP, but after I got sick and needed restrictions and told them I was in pain, they threw me away like trash and were done with me."

It's been breaking my heart lately to realize more and more that we as a society have decided that certain classes of people are disposable.

It's very Darwinian in a certain way, but isn't the triumph over that supposedly part of the beauty of humanity?

For everyone's sake, Love each other.
posted by HotPants at 9:07 PM on June 27, 2011 [3 favorites]


Worth a thought too for anyone grumbling about their own cushy office job, including myself, if you are trusted to take your own toilet breaks without damaging the company's overheads, maybe work this morning doesn't look so bad.
posted by Augenblick at 10:54 PM on June 27, 2011 [3 favorites]


The part that jumped out to me, beyond the treatment of employees or the conditions or anything, was this:

"When the 10-pound barrel was filled, another worker would come to take the brains for shipping to Asia, where they are used as a thickener in stir-fry."

It's like ... is that true? I'm not in Asia, is that really a thing that's done? What happened to flour or cornstarch? They can't possibly be more expensive than a tub of brains shipped around the world.
posted by kafziel at 12:42 AM on June 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


Spam is sausage. Crappy sausage. If you want Spam but not SPAM™, buy sausage. You can probably source it locally.
posted by LogicalDash at 1:22 AM on June 28, 2011


Yeeah, these past eight vegetarian years have been really, really easy on my conscience (also, do you hear yourselves talking about this? "Intact muscle bundles", "shoulder", "brain"? You know we are genetically nearly identical to pigs? That doesn't make you throw up in your mouth just a little?).
posted by Mooseli at 3:33 AM on June 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


these past eight vegetarian years have been really, really easy on my conscience

Then again, things aren't always so hunky dory for farm workers either.
posted by ShutterBun at 4:23 AM on June 28, 2011


You know we are genetically nearly identical to pigs? That doesn't make you throw up in your mouth just a little?

No. Tell me - what's the proportion of shared genes below which you'd be comfortable aerosolising and consuming an animal's brains? Because if there isn't such a number then being 'genetically nearly identical', whatever that means, is utterly irrelevant.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 4:39 AM on June 28, 2011


Threatening deportation of undocumented workers (after 10+ years of service) after they develop adverse health effects from their work environment.

Is this business plan patentable? (or is Hormel prior art?)


Hormel? You think these are new practices?
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 4:43 AM on June 28, 2011


That doesn't make you throw up in your mouth just a little?

No, the bacon grease made my breakfast go down easy.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 4:46 AM on June 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


I feel like a lot of people's reactions to information like this (and in other books profiling the food production industry in the U.S.), is to say things like, "oh, I just won't eat that!" We've been fooled into believing our only power in the U.S. is as a consumer rather than as a citizen.

Making consumer choices like, "I just won't eat that," do little to actually effect our meat industry or worker's rights. For change to actually happen, we have to start thinking first of ourselves as citizens (and not first of ourselves as consumers) and demand REGULATION (it isn't a dirty word) from our government to ensure that the food we eat is healthy and the people who produce it are too.
posted by whimsicalnymph at 6:55 AM on June 28, 2011 [12 favorites]


Hey teabaggers - now that they're deporting the "illegals" for daring to fight against the almighty corporation, there's some job openings for ya!
posted by symbioid at 8:49 AM on June 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


HotPants: ""I feel thrown away," she said, finally. "Like a piece of trash. Before, I worked hard and willingly for QPP, but after I got sick and needed restrictions and told them I was in pain, they threw me away like trash and were done with me."

It's been breaking my heart lately to realize more and more that we as a society have decided that certain classes of people are disposable.

It's very Darwinian in a certain way, but isn't the triumph over that supposedly part of the beauty of humanity?

For everyone's sake, Love each other.
"

Fuck you. The constitution talks about the right to life, not the right to dignity! What are you some kind of... Christian Commie???
posted by symbioid at 8:56 AM on June 28, 2011


/currently vegetarian, always gets weird looks when I describe how tasty meat products are.

Hello there, fellow side-dish-eating mofo!

Even after 20 years (this December), I still really, really, really, really miss barbecue.

I feel like a lot of people's reactions to information like this (and in other books profiling the food production industry in the U.S.), is to say things like, "oh, I just won't eat that!" We've been fooled into believing our only power in the U.S. is as a consumer rather than as a citizen.

Making consumer choices like, "I just won't eat that," do little to actually effect our meat industry or worker's rights. For change to actually happen, we have to start thinking first of ourselves as citizens (and not first of ourselves as consumers) and demand REGULATION (it isn't a dirty word) from our government to ensure that the food we eat is healthy and the people who produce it are too.


Amen. "Vote with your dollar" is a pretty offensive concept to me.

The FDA is incompetent but it seems mostly because we don't properly fund necessary regulation.
posted by mrgrimm at 10:38 AM on June 28, 2011


You know we are genetically nearly identical to pigs? That doesn't make you throw up in your mouth just a little?.

The genetic margin between human and pig is only slightly more narrow than the margin between human and jellyfish, or sweet potato, or anything else.
posted by FatherDagon at 11:02 AM on June 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


LogicalDash: "Spam is sausage. Crappy sausage. If you want Spam but not SPAM™, buy sausage. You can probably source it locally."

Nope. It's not. I can easily buy artisanal (expensive) sausage that is from local happy animals that were treated with dignity, processed by workers that are treated humanely. And I do. I can buy hams, tinned or not, by producers that don't take advantage of undocumented immigrants. And I do.

What I'm trying to do, is source something like SPAM without hurting people. There are other brands of canned luncheon meat int he US, but I have no idea if they're any better, and I have even less idea if the stuff from Asia is any better. I don't like SPAM because it's cheap. I like it because it tastes like SPAM. Seems like a huge potential market for a high end luncheon meat (all of Asia and the Pacific).
posted by danny the boy at 11:21 AM on June 28, 2011


Seems like a huge potential market for a high end luncheon meat (all of Asia and the Pacific).

Yes, and they are sold in places called "delicatessens" or "delis" for short, sometimes they are infested with troglodytic vegitarians.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 11:37 AM on June 28, 2011


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