We'll send you to Hog Heaven, all right!
August 6, 2006 12:17 AM   Subscribe

The inside of Farmer John's hog rendering plant in Vernon, California, is among the worst places on Earth if you happen to be a hog, which is why the outside of the building is such a case study in mural based irony. In 1957, perhaps as a trap to lure in unsuspecting piglets who had come to Los Angeles to make it in the movies, the folks at Farmer John's hired Hollywood set designer Les Grimes to begin painting a mural on the outside of the factory, a job that he continued until his death 11 years later. The result, entitled "Hog Heaven", depicts a pastoral wonderland, clearly a prime destination for any visiting out of town porcine rube. Surely one of the world's largest murals, the work stretches around the entire square cityblock worth of slaughterhouse, and (legend has it) is so large that not unlike the Golden Gate bridge, no sooner is it done being painted than the painter must begin touching it up all over again.
posted by jonson (35 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
If you're ever in Vernon, a) God help you, and b) stop by & look for a window on the top floor of the front entrance of the plant. Although I couldn't find a photo of it online, there's one pig painted in a window, looking out fornlornly from inside; his haunted eyes seem to glow like pig from the Amytiville Horror, because he has seen the hog hell that awaits those bucolicly frolicking piggies just inside the gates, yet he remains powerless to warn them.
posted by jonson at 12:20 AM on August 6, 2006

Yeah, but bacon tastes good. Pork chops taste good.
posted by fusinski at 12:35 AM on August 6, 2006 [2 favorites]

Sewer rat may taste like pumpkin pie, but I wouldn't know, because I wouldn't eat the filthy motherfucker.
posted by solid-one-love at 12:48 AM on August 6, 2006

Homer: Are you saying you're never going to eat any animal again? What about bacon?
Lisa: No.
Homer: Ham?
Lisa: No.
Homer: Pork chops?
Lisa: Dad, those all come from the same animal.
Homer: Heh heh heh. Ooh, yeah, right, Lisa. A wonderful, magical animal.
posted by jonson at 12:52 AM on August 6, 2006

Farmer John better hope Monsanto doesn't sue for patent infringement.
posted by homunculus at 1:19 AM on August 6, 2006

Mr Wiggin Good morning, gentlemen. This is a twelwe-storey block combining classical neo-Georgian features with the efficiency of modern techniques. The tenants arrive in the entrance hall here, and are carried along the corridor on a conveyor belt in extreme comfort and past murals depicting Mediterranean scenes, towards the rotating knives. The last twenty feet of the corridor are heavily soundproofed. The blood pours down these chutes and the mangled flesh slurps into these...
First City Gent Excuse me....
Mr Wiggin Hm?
First City Gent Did you say knives?
Mr Wiggin Rotating knives, yes.
Second City Gent Are you proposing to slaughter our tenants?
Mr Wiggin Does that not fit in with your plans?
First City Gent No, it does not. We asked for a simple block of flats.
Mr Wiggin Oh, I see. I hadn't correctly divined your attitude towards your tenants. You see I mainly design slaughter houses. Yes, pity. Mind you, this is a real beaut. I mean, none of your blood caked on the walls and flesh flying out of the windows, inconveniencing the passers-by with this one. I mean, my life has been building up to this.
Second City Gent Yes, and well done, but we want a block of flats.
Mr Wiggin May I ask you to reconsider. I mean, you wouldn't regret it. Think of the tourist trade.
First City Gent No, no, it's just that we wanted a block of flats, not an abattoir.
Mr Wiggin Yes, well, of course, this is just the sort blinkered philistine pig ignorance I've come to expect from you non-creative garbage. You sit there on your loathsome, spotty behinds squeezing blackheads, not caring a tinker's cuss about the struggling artist. (shouting) You excrement! You lousy hypocritical whining toadies with your lousy colour TV sets and your Tony Jacklin golf clubs and your bleeding masonic handshakes! You wouldn't let me join, would you, you blackballing bastards. Well I wouldn't become a freemason now if you went down on your lousy, stinking, purulent knees and begged me.
Second City Gent Well, we're sorry you feel like that but we, er, did want a block of flats. Nice though the abattoir is.
Mr Wiggin Oh (blows raspberry) the abattoir, that's not important. But if any of you could put in a word for me I'd love to be a freemason. Freemasonry opens doors. I mean, I was...I was a bit on edge just now, but if I were a mason I'd sit at the back and not get in anyone's way.
First City Gent Thank you.
Mr Wiggin I've got a second-hand apron.
Second City Gent Thank you.
Mr Wiggin (going to door but stopping) I nearly got in at Hendon.
First City Gent Thank you.
posted by caddis at 1:30 AM on August 6, 2006

I have been to that plant in Vernon to sell them some software and, while I missed the pig looking out the window, I got to see and hear some things that I keep trying to forget.

They put their worker safety reports up on a bulletin board near the security sign in area. Reading about slips and falls in the offal containment area kind of made me laugh.

As I was leaving a truckload of very noisy pigs passed me by, reminding me where I was. I am guessing that with the sheer quantity of pigs slaughtered there, the mural helps not only the visitors but the workers as well.

I prefer to think that tasty bacon comes from trees. It's easier that way.

Also, the City of Vernon has been discussed here before. It's a remarkably corrupt little town.
posted by sciatica at 1:58 AM on August 6, 2006

The LA Times article from sciatica's linked MeFi thread can be found here.
posted by maryh at 2:36 AM on August 6, 2006

Whoa, I was just in the area yesterday. Wish I'd known about the pig in the window, that'd be a hell of a sight.

I was surprised by how pleasant the smell was. For some reason I thought there'd be some ungodly stench of decay, but it smelled just like tasty bacon...
posted by equalpants at 2:56 AM on August 6, 2006


This mural is the location at which the photo was taken for the cover of the album Dr. John's Gumbo! Dr. John was standing in front of one of the walls. A great record, by the way...

Thanks for that.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 3:21 AM on August 6, 2006

Rad! That's my good friend hexod.us' Flickr stream! Great post.
posted by redteam at 3:53 AM on August 6, 2006

I bet those paintings don't fool the pigs at all.
posted by Meatbomb at 6:23 AM on August 6, 2006

The LA Times article from sciatica's linked MeFi thread can be found here.

Thanks, Mary - I was going to link to the original Vernon mefi thread, but decided not to since the LA Times article it was based on was no longer accessible. It's an amazing(ly horrible) place.

Rad! That's my good friend hexod.us' Flickr stream! Great post.

You know that guy? I just found his blog last night, and I think I have to marry him or something, which will be bad news for my wife. He posts about amazing things that are all pretty much exactly up my alley. I'm pretty sure for the rest of August I'm just going to be cribbing his posts & putting them here.
posted by jonson at 6:38 AM on August 6, 2006

I like bacon.

...And this post.

And thanks for the Gumbo info, flapjax at midnite—I would have seen the cover of my copy one of these days and had an annoying flash of semi-memory: "Where have I seen that mural before?" Now I know.
posted by languagehat at 7:01 AM on August 6, 2006

My pleasure, languagehat. "Blow Wind Blow" from that record is kind of sublime, I think.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 7:14 AM on August 6, 2006

Marvelous post jonson, as ever!

They probably sing Farmer Hoggett's song (sound clip,scroll down) to the pigs before slaughter:

If I had words to make a day for you,
I'd sing a morning golden & true
I would make this day last for all time
then fill the night deep with moonshine
If I could make a day for you
I'd give you a morning golden & true
I would make this day last for all time..
then fill the night deep with moonshine
posted by nickyskye at 7:25 AM on August 6, 2006

> Sewer rat may taste like pumpkin pie, but I wouldn't know, because I wouldn't eat the filthy motherfucker.

You won't have to, because Soylent Green is people.
posted by jfuller at 8:19 AM on August 6, 2006

jonson, I figured you found this stuff 'cause you fat-fingered "pug" into a search engine.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 8:21 AM on August 6, 2006

"Abandon all hope ye who enter here."
posted by ericb at 8:31 AM on August 6, 2006


posted by ericb at 8:33 AM on August 6, 2006

jonson, I figured you found this stuff 'cause you fat-fingered "pug" into a search engine.

Man, if there was a giant pug-based mural somewhere in Los Angeles, that would totally rock. Maybe I'll go paint one.
posted by jonson at 9:09 AM on August 6, 2006

My friend Jason once inspired the harbour-master in Crail (Fife, Scotland, etc) to call one of his pugs Dolly, because Jason loved the word Dolly so much. The harbour-master had some art related to his work on his house, too, a carved 17th century stone lobster painted red. Am I back on topic now?
posted by imperium at 10:02 AM on August 6, 2006

Vernon is pretty much all meat packing and machine shops; the industrial armpit of L.A. There's a weekly cycle - on Mondays the trucks arrive the there's a sort of mini cattle drive as the steers and hogs enter the processing plants. Once in a while they get loose and the Vernon motorcycle cops (only cops I've seen who carry scabbard mounted shotguns on their bikes) get to play round up.

Thursdays smell the worst; that's the day the carcasses are rendered, i.e. boiled down for their remaining constituent bits. Vernon is also the home of Bandini Mountain, a large pile of fertilizer featured in the 80's TV commercial.
posted by Standeck at 11:03 AM on August 6, 2006

Please, it's not a "slaughterhouse", it's an abattoir. Now don't you feel better?
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 11:22 AM on August 6, 2006

If you didn't care what happened to me,
And I didn't care for you
We would zig zag our way through the boredom and pain
Occasionally glancing up through the rain
Wondering which of the buggers to blame
And watching for pigs on the wing.

Pink Floyd, Animals. Awesome album, as with all their earlier works.
posted by five fresh fish at 1:04 PM on August 6, 2006

This post was the last thing I read before bed, and I must have spent the whole night dreaming about Vernon because I can't dislodge that horrible town and that insane, hellish mural from my mind. And knowing it's nearby makes it worse.
I hate you,Milkman Dan Farmer John.

(another fine find, jonson!)
posted by maryh at 2:20 PM on August 6, 2006

I've had more nightmares of Vernon than I can recall. A client of ours was based there, a well known catfood manufacturer. The smell was appauling even on the best days, and on hot, stagnant summer days, it was unbearable. Driving to their offices was like playing Frogger with the 18 wheeler semis backing out of every driveway on either side of every road.
posted by jonson at 2:49 PM on August 6, 2006

Oh, one of those places... we used to have one locally. Proved incompatible with the growing community and impossible to operationally clean up its scent footprint.

Pure concentrate of nasty, that.
posted by five fresh fish at 4:30 PM on August 6, 2006

That tale about the Golden Gate Bridge being painted is a myth.

Many misconceptions exist about how often the Bridge is painted. Some say once every seven years, others say from end-to-end each year. Actually, the Bridge was painted when it was originally built. For the next 27 years, only touch up was required. By 1965, advancing corrosion sparked a program to remove the original paint and replace it with an inorganic zinc silicate primer and acrylic emulsion topcoat. The program was completed in 1995. The Bridge will continue to require routine touch up painting on an on-going basis."
posted by ericb at 7:24 PM on August 6, 2006

Eh, it's probably a myth about the Farmer John's plant too.
posted by jonson at 7:46 PM on August 6, 2006

After the Revolution, in my Animal Farm pigs will eat people. And so will I.
posted by davy at 8:53 AM on August 7, 2006

Isn't that the place they got the blood to dump on Carrie?
posted by deborah at 10:45 AM on August 7, 2006

once you've seen the accident reports from a month in a slaughterhouse, you appreciate the lives, limbs and lifeblood that was sacrificed for your sausages and bacon.

I love meat and I love the meat industry workers!!!

3 cheers!!
hip hip......

hip hip......

hip hip.....
posted by Megafly at 2:29 PM on August 7, 2006

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