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Analysis of the Hidden Cost of the German Meat Industry

For related articles and more information, please visit OCA's CAFO's vs. Free Range page and our Food Safety Research Center page.

Meinolf is about the best thing that can happen to a sow. As boars go, he is relatively inconspicuous. He is seven years old, weighs 122.5 kilograms (270 lbs.), and the fat on his back is exactly seven centimeters thick. But he does have one shining talent: He has sired many a perfect piglet.

Meinolf is a "top genetic boar," one of the most productive animals at the Weser-Ems Pig Insemination Center in northern Germany. The facility advertises the impressive animal in one of its catalogs, which is filled with technical information about fattening and slaughter performance formulas, feed conversion ratios and lean-meat content. The 148-page catalog is something of a pin-up calendar for hog farmers, with 16 boars featured on each spread.

The company produces and markets 1.5 million vials of sperm a year, making it one of Europe's largest pig insemination centers. To ensure that Weser-Ems remains a success, Meinolf, like many of his fellow boars, spends day after day in a sterile stall, and the only thing he is permitted to mount is a so-called phantom.

Meinolf stands at the beginning of the distribution chain in Germany's pork production industry, which has been growing steadily for years. Success in the pork industry requires sacrifices from each of its participants: the animals, the producers and their employees. In the end, consumers also pay a high, albeit hidden price for the meat made in Germany so efficiently and cheaply.

The representatives of the meat industry, including farmers, feedlot operators and slaughterers, often feel misunderstood and unfairly criticized. Their critics, on the other hand, have strong arguments against the industry's global game plan, because the system also inflicts massive harm on human beings, animals and the environment.  
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