Duplin County, N.C. stinks. And no wonder. Its human population is just under 50,000 people, but it is also home to 2.2 million [PDF] of North Carolina's 10 million hogs [PDF]. Last week, I went on a bus tour of Duplin County as a part of the Politics of Food Conference to see how confined animal feeding operations impact rural communities. It was not pretty.
Our guides on this tour were Dr. Sacoby Wilson, an assistant research professor at the University of South Carolina, and Devon Hall, a community activist for Rural Empowerment Association for Community Help. Each was quite knowledgeable about how CAFOs affect the health of a community, both from medical and economic standpoints. What I heard from them combined with what I saw and smelled renewed my resolve to know the farmer who raises the meat I eat.
Lakes of liquid manure
Hall started off by telling us that Duplin County has the highest concentration of hog CAFOs in the state. All but two of the county's 522 hog farms are white-owned, even though African Americans make up 29 percent of the population. Each farm has between 3,000 and 12,000 animals, and some quick back-of-the-envelope math showed me that the average hog population is just over 4,200 per CAFO...