Senate Hearing on Smithfield-Shuanghui Deal: A Primer

Before senators grill the Smithfield CEO, here are the basics on what is at stake.

Employees work on production lines at a pork processing plant owned by Henan Shuanghui Group Ltd., which has made a bid for Virginia-based Smithfield Foods Ltd., in Luohe, in central China's Henan province on June 4, 2013.

Employees work on production lines at a pork processing plant owned by Henan Shuanghui Group Ltd., which has made a bid for Virginia-based Smithfield Foods Ltd.

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"The reality is that all the pork that Smithfield is going to produce here in the states is still going to be under the same regulations, USDA and the like, that it has been for years," says Michael Ho, a professor specializing in mergers and acquisitions at the University of Virginia's Darden School of Business.

[ALSO: U.S. at Risk for Foodborne Attack]

In addition, some have voiced fears that pork from China, which has notoriously suffered from many tainted food scares in recent years, could find its way into the U.S. Shuanghui itself was the source of one of those scares last year, when Chinese customers became sick from eating sausages from a package later revealed to contain dead maggots. However, Ho points out that the primary direction of trade would be toward China – as they have far greater pork demand than the U.S., products would go toward them rather than from China to the U.S., he says.

Either way, that sounds unsanitary. Maggots? Really?

Speaking of unsanitary, some groups are worried about the environmental problems that increased U.S. hog production could create.

In a June blog post, environmental advocacy group the Center for Food Safety worried that as production and exports rise, "the external costs of production will remain on U.S. soil. This means Americans will be stuck with the millions of gallons of manure, millions of pounds of air pollution, and community exposure to pollution," wrote Staff Attorney Elisabeth Holmes.

More giant lakes of poop in the Midwest, then?

They're called manure lagoons, but yes.

I think I just lost my appetite for bacon-wrapped dates.

More for Chinese customers, then.

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