Pork has always been important to North Carolina’s economy. It was among 16 commodities used as legal tender by colonists in the early 1700s, and for almost as long, farmers and their neighbors have been fighting over how the animals should be managed. Today, the industry accounts for close to $8 billion a year in revenue and 46,000 full-time jobs in production and processing, according to the North Carolina Pork Council, making the state the second largest pork producer in the US.
Accompanying all those swine is a lot of waste—hogs produce two-to-five times as much waste as humans. North Carolina does not release exactly how much manure is produced a year, and Smithfield declined to disclose how much its pigs produce, but estimates range between 15.5 million tons (pdf, p. 5) for the state’s top five pork producing counties to 2.53 billion gallons for the whole state. The nearly 2.3 million hogs raised in Duplin County generated twice as much waste as the entire city of New York (p.11) in 2007, the nonprofit Food and Water Watch estimates.