North Carolina, where modern pork production flourished in the late 90s, is now where contention is building between pork leader Smithfield and neighbors.
Testimonies began Tuesday in the first trial between Smithfield subsidiary Murphy-Brown LLC, and local residents, who say the way the company manages its hog waste is producing unbearable smell. In total, there are 26 federal lawsuits filed by more than 500 plaintiffs living near hog farms in eastern North Carolina.
The first lawsuit involves 10 plaintiffs who live near Kinlaw Farm, which raises 15,000 hogs on contract with Smithfield in Bladen County. The owners of the farm are not defendants.
Michael Kaeske, a Dallas, Texas-based lawyer for the plaintiffs, says Smithfield refuses to implement new waste management technology to reduce odors. Associated Press reports Kaeske also mentioned a 1999 agreement in which Smithfield consented to eliminating lagoon-to-sprayfield system in Missouri after the company was sued by the state.
The Missouri solution included covering open-air waste pits, Kaeske said, yet Smithfield's "lagoons in North Carolina remain uncovered."
DNA tests found a type of bacteria originating in swine digestive systems coating exterior surfaces at the homes of all 10 Bladen County plaintiffs, Kaeske told jurors.
Smithfield attorney Mark Anderson said the trial should focus exclusively on the farm in Kinlaw and should not discuss alternative waste-management technologies used in other states, where temperatures and lagoon construction are different.
The farm never faced complaints from neighbors or state regulators until out-of-state lawyers showed up to press their agenda, Anderson said.