As usual Mark Bittman at the New York Times doesn't spare anyone in his assessment of the Smithfield deal.
The fact is that China is going to be a net importer of food more or less forever: it’s got a fifth of the world’s population (and eats a fifth of the world’s food), but only nine percent of its agricultural land and scarce water resources. (The average pig takes nearly 600 gallons of water to produce a pound of meat.)The Smithfield-Shuanghui deal guarantees China the pork while offloading the downsides of pork production onto The Land of the Free. It guarantees us cropland devoted to chemical-dependent monoculture; continued overuse of water and other resources, none of which we can afford to squander; and great big stinking piles of manure. In sum, it transfers the environmental damage of large-scale pork production from China to the United States.
So even more than a technology grab, the Smithfield deal is a land and water grab. We still have the world’s most enviable combination of arable land, rainfall and temperate weather, and there’s no practical technological substitute for any of these. It’s the consumption of these resources, along with the manure deposits, that make the Smithfield deal, to paraphrase Warren Buffett, a form of colonization by purchase rather than conquest. In short, the deal, as Minxin Pei wrote in Fortune, is “really about owning access to America’s safe farmland and clean water supplies.”
We've become China's farm team. Get used to it. The U.S. subsidizes corn and soy. Forty-seven percent of soy and 60 percent of corn produced in the U.S. is being consumed by livestock. This allows industrial animal agriculture to self-regulate and look the other way regarding the greenhouse gas emissions of livestock. This is our future.