The Hog Barons

19 Apr 2021


JeffJeff Hansen, who owns Iowa’s largest hog operation, brought about 5 million pigs to market last year. Each one spent its entire life in a windowless metal shed called a confinement. Passing clusters of the massive sheds on the rural highways, you wouldn’t imagine that a standard confinement holds almost 2,500 pigs — unless the wind wafted the thick stench of manure in your direction. The manure drops through a shed’s slatted floors and collects in a deep pool below. Often, that pool will run through a pipe to a manure pond or lagoon that holds the overflow.

Hansen’s company, Iowa Select Farms, employs more than 7,400 people, including contractors, and has built hundreds of confinement sheds in more than 50 of Iowa’s 99 counties. Since they began to arrive in the 1990s, these sheds have provoked controversy. Citing damage to health, livelihoods, property values, the environment, and the farm economy, rural communities in Iowa have campaigned fiercely against them.

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