Not As Good As Bacon

Photo by Jon Butterworth on Unsplash
Photo by Jon Butterworth on Unsplash

I was talking to someone the other day and he brought up how well we treat some of our food, compared to some of our staff.  (Thanks Robert)  I thought about it and tried to figure out if that was true.  Let’s not limit ourselves to just Alberta, though, let’s talk about world-wide standards and see how we compare.  Let’s see how we treat our staff in comparison to how pig farmers in Africa should be treating their pigs.  (Harsh, but let’s give it a shot.)

The Food and Agriculture Association of the United Nations has some documentation on livestock housing.  In particular, Pig Housing.  I’ve never learned so much about pigs in my life.  The documentation talks about the number of farrowing pens, gestating pens and the number of “finishing accommodations”.

Let’s talk about farrowing, the act of giving birth to a litter of pigs.  Just prior to farrowing the sow is placed in a farrowing crate.  This crate is deliberately small so that the sow has a smaller chance of overlaying or trampling the piglets.  The sow is only kept in here a few days prior to birth and up to a week afterward.  Let’s call it ten days total.  The United Nations guidelines are to provide a farrowing crate of 2.0 square metres.  I was looking at some new workstations that the organization was trying to put in place and the workstations were 1.8 square metres in size.  Yes, a farrowing crate has more space than what we were going to be giving to someone and they were going to be spending weeks, months or even years in that space.  Score one for the pig.

Boars are the superstars of the pig world apparently.  They get spoiled with a massive 7 square metres (without a yard) or a 4.5 square metre pen with an 8 square metre yard.  Pure luxury.  They have the equivalent of four of the smaller accommodations that we want to put people into.  I guess the boar would be the senior manager of the pig world.  Score another one for the pig.

The finishing pen is where the pig spends his last days, approximately 105 days if the United Nations is to be believed.  The purpose here is to fatten up the pig for slaughter.  They minimize the space required here to a paltry 0.6 square metres per pig.  (I am selecting the highest density for pigs.  At the lower density, they get 0.9 square metres.)  Score one for the humans.

So, do we treat our pigs better than we treat our people?  Well, for those pigs that we want to keep around, yes we do.  For those that we are going to send for slaughter in a few months, then we don’t.

Are we trying to keep our staff around for longer than 105 days?  I would think so.  I would think that keeping staff would be cheaper than acquiring new staff.  At least, that is what every article I’ve read, the economics courses I went on and even the HR material that I’ve browsed through, said about costs.  Keep as opposed to re-hire.

So, if we trying to keep our staff, to provide for them an environment in which they can be productive, an environment where we are getting value for dollar spent, why do we treat them worse than pigs?

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