Dead Pigs (hanging pork)

Dear Sonny,

Drew Hodel
4 min readMay 7, 2020


In your most recent letter to major meatpacking companies, you urged America’s meat and poultry processors to continue their operations (despite recent outbreaks of COVID-19 among workers at some processing facilities) and reminded them that such guidance comes from President Trump himself.

Coming from you, however, the United States Secretary of Agriculture (i.e. the head of the USDA (the executive department responsible for developing and executing federal laws related to farming, forestry, rural economic development, and food)), your letter carries a lot of weight.

But, Sonny, if, like Trump (as stated in his recent executive order), you urged America’s meat and poultry processors to continue their operations because you believe they are critical to ensuring “a continued supply of protein for Americans,” then, on that point, I’d have to politely disagree.

I’d agree that our economy is in shambles and that “re-starting” it in a strategic way is a good idea.

However, I’ve known since I was eleven years old that many foods besides beef, poultry, and pork, contain protein.

Almonds, peanuts, cashews, quinoa, tofu, mushrooms, fish!

The list goes on.

Way on.

And, moreover, if taste is the issue, then there are several alternative options:

Impossible Foods.

Beyond Meat.


Climax Foods.

These new companies and many others have recreated the entire sensory experience of meat using plants.

Moreover, please understand that these new companies, unlike the old beef, pork, and poultry companies, are also way better for the environment.

Sonny, I know you’re the United States Secretary of Agriculture, but in case you didn’t know:

For most of history, whenever we’ve needed to produce more food, we’ve simply cut down and cleared away whole ecosystems to make way for monoculture crops and livestock.

For example, today, we’ve already cleared and cut down ecosystems roughly the size of South America (to grow crops)_and Africa (to raise livestock). Moreover, only 55% of the crop calories we grow are used to actually feed us. The other 45%? They’re used to feed the livestock or they’re turned into industrial products. And, finally, for every 100 calories of grain we feed to our livestock, we get only about 12 calories of poultry, 10 calories of pork, and 3 calories of beef.

It’s an extremely inefficient process; and, as United States Secretary of Agriculture, I’m sure you already knew that.

But, did you know that cutting down forests to make way for livestock means we have fewer trees to house diverse life and absorb greenhouse gases?

Or that livestock, such as cattle, emit 14.5% of all human-related greenhouse gases emissions?

Or that the global average water footprint — or the total amount of water needed — to produce one pound of beef is 1,799 gallons of water?

Or that the beef made by Impossible Foods, which contains no animal hormones or antibiotics, uses 87% less water than farm raised beef?

In any case, I query: Sonny, do any of the above arguments, which are based on things we know resonate or carry any weight whatsoever with a man like you?

For is it not true that you’ve criticized attempts by the media to connect climate change to weather events (something we know); and that you’ve shown a strong predilection for supporting those things we’re meant to have faith in, but do not know?

Did you or did you not lead a group of several hundred people in prayer on the steps of the Georgia state Capitol, during a drought, saying, “We’ve come together here simply for one reason and one reason only: to very reverently and respectfully pray up a storm” and “God, we need you; we need rain"?

And no, I don’t criticize your belief in the almighty.

That stuff is all Beyond Me(at).

It’s just that I assume my arguments (which are based on what we know) won’t carry much weight with you.

So, I’d like to end this letter to you by focusing on a few things that we do not know.

We don’t know whether or when another zoonotic disease — such as a coronavirus — might emerge again.

And we don’t know — at least not for sure — whether large, closed, confined spaces (such as beef, pork, and poultry factories) might prove to be fertile breeding grounds for the emergence of future zoonotic diseases.

However, I hope you can see that it’s not entirely impossible that another zoonotic disease might emerge; or that large closed, confined spaces might prove fertile breeding grounds for such a disease.

And, so Sonny, just as you’ve been able to put your faith in the great Beyond, I politely ask that you please also try to put your faith in the Impossible; and in turn embrace a healthier and more sustainable future for this country.

Kind regards,