In 1994, things began to look up for Milan, Missouri, a remote, rural community of 2,000 that had been struggling for years with a declining farm economy and weak job market. Premium Standard Farms (PSF), the second-largest pork production company in the U.S., opened a state-of-the-art packing plant in Milan’s rural enterprise zone. Today the company raises 2 million hogs annually on 38,000 acres of rolling northwest Missouri hills, then brings them to Milan for processing.
PSF workers slaughter over 7,000 hogs a day. It’s one of the most dangerous industries in the nation. Most of the workers earn $21,000 per year. After a decade of PSF operations, 22 percent of Milan’s population lives below the poverty level, and the median household income is less than half the U.S. average.
David Ostendorf is a United Church of Christ minister serving as executive director of the Chicago-based Center for New Community, a national organization committed to building community, justice and equality.