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?

Article Source



Innovation: A Gift that Doesn’t Come in a Box

In recent years, the siloed organizational structures common in traditional large corporations creating barriers between company functions are being broken down to foster a more innovative workplace. In the Wall Street Journal article “Together We Innovate,” the authors dispel the “Myth of the lone genius.” In essence, studies show that innovation does not come from one or even a small team of brilliant employees. The three problems that inhibit innovation are: lack of communication between functions, leaving decision-making to only a few company experts, and one-on-one contacts between collaborating partners.

Cross Collaboration

An overarching theme is that the divisions of employee expertise via a functional project organization prevent ideas from different perspectives at key points in the project timeline. The article mentions that by the time a new product idea gets to the marketing team, the concept is so developed that the marketers and teams further down the line cannot have any input. Although this may not seem to be big news to younger generations who highly value open networks and collaborative environments, these insights support a project manager’s decision to utilize a matrix organizational structure. Implementation of flat organizational structures has taken off in companies that highly value innovation and creativity. I have seen this in many ad and marketing agencies that have open desk space and a literal lack of physical barriers between offices and communication.

Open Mind

Leaving the big decisions up to only a few, albeit experts, in a particular project or organization can often throw the seeds of innovation into a desert of unrealistic ideas. Due to the knowledge of these decision-makers of what has proven successful, they often turn down out-of-the-box ideas providing vital opportunities for competitors. This lack of reception to new and risky ideas can stifle innovation in any organizational setting. From my experience, working in a team with limitations can be helpful, but working with a closed-minded decision maker or team leader keeps a lot of creativity and motivation for new ideas at bay.

Formal Network

Often times, companies rely on other organizations to produce innovative ideas. The networks created are likely informal and “eighty percent of the interactions between the company and academia were one-on-one.” It can be a project manager’s nightmare when one of these people leaves and the connection with that employee is lost.  A new relationship must be established with the partner organization. This style of communication is inefficient, very risky, and the result of poor management planning. I have seen this happen many times in student organizations at DePaul and know how frustrating this dilemma is and the strain it puts on what may have been an effective and innovative team.

To answer these three major problems, the article lists several solutions and applications. How would you solve these problems? Maybe you have had similar experiences in your workplace, working on a class project, or in an on-campus organization? How did you overcome these barriers to innovation?


Cross, Hargadon, et al. “Together We Innovate.” Wall Street Journal. Dow Jones & Company. 19 June 2012. Web. 11 May 2013.


Image Source: http://www.freshnetworks.com/blog/2012/12/ten-things-businesses-should-know-about-what-innovation-is-and-isnt/