It wasn’t until a pig nosed me in the backside, in a friendly way, that I mustered the courage to touch one. I had seen thousands of hogs over the past 18 hours, but I had been nervously keeping my hands to myself. This particular pig seemed to disapprove of my restraint. I scratched him on the crown of his pink, wiry-haired head. He snorted loudly.

I was in a pungent, crowded barn on a farm that raises 30,000 pigs a year in Frankfort, Ind., a sleepy farming town 45 miles northwest of Indianapolis. The farm belonged to Mike Beard, who was standing next to me. The pigs belonged not to Beard but to TDM Farms, a hog production company. Beard has a contract to raise TDM’s pigs from when they are 14 days old, just weaned from their mother’s milk, until the age of six months, when they are trucked to a processing plant and made into pork chops, sausages and tenderloins. The 40-by-200-foot barn housed 1,100 pigs. Because Beard is paid for the space he provides rather than by the number of pigs, “it’s to the company’s advantage to keep the buildings as full as they can,” he explained. At 7:30 that evening, a tractor-trailer would deliver 400 more piglets, and as soon as they got settled, Beard planned to give them TDM-approved feed containing antibiotics—a necessity if they were to stay healthy in their crowded, manure-gilded home. Antibiotics also help farm animals grow faster on less food, so their use has long been a staple of industrial farming.

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Image: By USGS –, Public Domain,