“On the cut-and-kill floor of Quality Pork Processors Inc. in Austin, Minnesota, the wind always blows. From the open doors at the docks where drivers unload massive trailers of screeching pigs, through to the “warm room” where the hogs are butchered, to the plastic-draped breezeway where the parts are handed over to Hormel for packaging, the air gusts and swirls, whistling through the plant like the current in a canyon. In the first week of December 2006, Matthew Garcia felt feverish and chilled on the blustery production floor. He fought stabbing back pains and nausea, but he figured it was just the flu—and he was determined to tough it out.
Garcia had gotten on at QPP only 12 weeks before and had been stuck with one of the worst spots on the line: running a device known simply as the “brain machine”—the last stop on a conveyor line snaking down the middle of a J-shaped bench [DC] called the “head table.” Every hour, more than 1,300 severed pork heads go sliding along the belt. Workers slice off the ears, clip the snouts, chisel the cheek meat.They scoop out the eyes, carve out the tongue, and scrape the palate meat from the roofs of mouths. Because, famously, all parts of a pig are edible (“everything but the squeal,” wisdom goes), nothing is wasted. A woman next to Garcia would carve meat off the back of each head before letting the denuded skull slide down the conveyor and through an opening in a plexiglass shield.”
This is the meat industry. I know people would care about this if they knew it was going on. I am optimistic about that. People have to care first before any sort of action. Today, actually, I had a conversation with 4 people at work about Food Inc. and they were all really disturbed about factory farming and what we are feeding our children. Everyone was really ticked about the lack of regulation on what words can be put on foodstuff. If people really knew about the “head table” and the “brain machine” they would seriously be disturbed.
What they look like: About the same size as a green bell pepper, but longer and leaner — like you stretched out a bell. They are often pale green, although also I’ve eaten ones the same shape and flavor that are a deep purple.
How to prepare: Don’t be afraid! These are sweet and can be eaten raw. As the name implies, they are even better fried.
Why we love them: They’re a nice change of pace from a bell pepper and stay firmer when cooked.