Hog-wild for Factory Farming: Hot Dogs Made in China

As the Chinese population and economy continue to grow, safer and more efficient industrialization practices are necessary to keep up with the demands of a hot dog hungry China. This is not an exaggeration as China is “the world’s largest consumer of pork.” A recent takeover of Smithfield Foods by Shuanghui Holdings Ltd., “China’s biggest meat processor,” will provide valuable insight into industry practices that are commonplace in the U.S. Current processing methods in China lack quality control as the majority of meat is produced by small farms that process less than 500 hogs per year.

From Hog to HotdogThese “conditions on smaller farms can be squalid, with a lot of physical contact between farmers and animals, which can transmit disease.” This type of environment can become a breeding ground for contamination leading to outbreaks of diseases like swine flu and foot-and-mouth disease, having major health implications on Chinese consumers. Authorities blame irresponsible farming practices and the disjointed meat processing system that is not easy to “regulate and makes it more difficult to avoid bad practices.”

In contrast, the highly sophisticated and streamlined systems of pork production in the U.S. is often viewed negatively by Americans and referred to as “factory farming.” Smithfield’s facilities have the “capacity to slaughter as many as 110,000 hogs a day,” and most U.S. farms are much larger than their Chinese counterparts, raising over 2,000 hogs annually. Ironically, these modern processing techniques are the envy of Chinese authorities who are looking to utilize the “expertise of Smithfield’s management team to enhance its pork-processing facilities.” Skeptics claim that the Shuanghi-Smithfield partnership “will exacerbate such problems as complex supply chains and food-contamination risks.”

Although the trend in U.S. agriculture is to go “back to the start” as expressed in marketing campaigns by environmentally conscious companies like Chipotle Mexican Grill, this is not the reality in China. As health out-breaks are more widespread in this Asian country and regulation lacking, efforts to “control food safety” and create more modernized processing methods are a welcomed site.

In such an industry, operational expertise will prove essential in restructuring the pork processing system in China. They will likely face challenges like determining adequate process and capacity design for farming facilities and distribution channels; forecasting to meet the demands of a growing population; Slaughter Pigs in Chinaand improving inefficient and broken supply chains. Improved product quality will likely be most prominent and follow a manufacturing-based definition as increased standards will ensure a safer finished product.

On a personal note, I am an advocate for more naturally produced food in smaller farming environments, yet I understand that the demands and current conditions in China are quite different from the U.S. All criticism aside, the majority of the U.S. population relies on the safe meat supply provided by corporations like Smithfield to ensure peace-of-mind at the dinner table. How do you think that the new deal between Shuanghi and Smithfield will impact Chinese and U.S. consumers, respectively. Will the Chinese citizens have a similar sentiment toward industrialized farming practices in future decades?

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Can the Cruise Industry Stay Afloat?

It’s been a nightmare at sea for this seasons start to the 2013 Cruise Season. From passengers going overboard, crew members dying and of course the horrific Carnival cruise ship that suffered a mass power outage that left over 4200 passengers stranded in the Mexican Gulf, the industry has been hit with new challenges.

Although, Carnival Cruise line has been getting the blunt of the bad media coverage for several equipment failures, the whole industry of cruise ships still have been affected. The Cruise Industry is now facing challenges of attracting new passengers due to recent events coupled with the old challenge of increasing operational costs and competition.

With high fuel costs, expensive airfare, and a rougher economy, almost every cruise line has been forced to cut costs while still trying to attract consumers. The Carnival Cruise ships have been proof that cutting costs in procedures, maintenance and quality crew members in order to provide over the top amenities and attractive destinations at reasonable costs to passengers have major consequences.

The challenge is not just picking attractive destinations and providing better service and perks then the next cruise ship.

All cruise lines have been optimistic in light of the horrific at-sea events, through the release of big upgrades, innovations and reengineered cruise ships in attempt to save the industry and their images. Cruise lines are taking on the challenge by restructuring ships to be the destination. An editor of cruisecritic.com , Caroyln Spencer Brown believes that “When you start focusing on shiny new ships with funky, fun, new amenities and features, the market comes back.” Or at least that is their hope.

The Royal Caribbean will release more thrill seeking attractions like bumper cars and simulated skydiving, while the Disney Cruise line will be redesigning their old ship to mimic the Marvel Comic Superhero theme. Several other major attractions like water parks, state of the art dining , world class exercise classes are all features that are changing the cruise line industry; it’s no longer just about the port destinations, its the ship itself that delivers the true experience.

While other cruise lines are adding over-the-top products and services to their ships, Carnival Cruise is sticking to product improvement. They have cancelled several cruises and spent over $300 million on safety upgrades and emergency generators to enhance their dependability and prevent anymore-technical nightmares.

Although, the thrill of walking on a plank, ice bars, eccentric food from Food Network Chefs, themes and celebrity shows sound enticing…I think there is a point where safety should not be forfeited. Also, is it really right for Cruise Lines to believe the ship “experience” outshines the actual destinations?


Ice Bar in Norwegian Cruise Ship

Observatory 300 feet above Sea Level

Would you pick a cruise based on it’s innovative amenities or on the basis of the trips destinations?

What dimension of quality do you think is most important for Cruise Lines to focus on?  Aesthetics? Service? Reliability etc..?