07/11/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Ruin Your Barbecue: Learn About The Industry!

As we head into the Fourth of July holiday and what will no doubt be a weekend full of BBQs, I can't seem to get a number that I saw in the 10K that Smithfield Foods (SFD) filed last week out of my head: their slaughter capacity in the U.S. has now reached 122,000 pigs a day at the company's nine different plants. Think about that for a minute (preferably when you're not about to tuck into a plate of baby-back ribs). Assuming those 9 plants run around the clock, that's 564 pigs each hour or over 44 million pigs a year. According to the USDA, a typical pig reaches slaughter weight at 240 to 270 lbs. And, as this article in Rolling Stone pointed out in December 2006, the average pig produces 3 times as much excrement as a human who weighs the same amount.

Those kind of numbers made me go back and look at Smithfield's 10Ks to see what the trend has been over the past decade. When the Rolling Stone article came out, it estimated Smithfield's slaughter capacity at 27 million a year, though the 10Ks would actually put the number for 2005 at 101,000 a day or 36.8 million hogs a year. Ten years ago, Smithfield's slaughter capacity was 62,000 a day or just over 22 million a year.

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