Racism Is Like Hot Dogs

The secret ingredient of systemic racism

Jeffrey Kass
ZORA
Published in
6 min readNov 26, 2023

--

pigs on a farm
Image: Shutterstock/Deyana Stefanova Robova

I was just a year out of law school, working for a prestigious law firm in St. Louis, when one of my bosses asked me to work on a case involving family farmers suing a corporate hog farm.

I’m Jewish and don’t eat pork, so I found the assignment a bit amusing.

“At least you don’t have to worry about me eating the profits,” I told one of the partners.

The case wasn’t funny, though.

Over 100 farmers and others were suing the corporate farms, which housed over 80,000 hogs, because of smell emanating from large lagoons that stored all the hog waste. Some claimed the manure was seeping into the groundwater, too.

Back then, most of the documents to review for the case weren’t stored on a computer server. The cloud hadn’t been invented. Just thousands of boxes filled with paper files and other items. I was tasked with reviewing all of them.

A couple of the boxes contained audio and videotapes, one of which had a segment about cutting-edge technologies to treat gallons and gallons of hog waste. Just how I imagined my career.

Before I listened to the part about hog farms, there was another segment on the recording that discussed how pepperoni is made. I was going to fast-forward, but curiosity got the better of me.

It will always stick with me.

“The boils, pus, blisters and scraps that make up the typically less usable parts of the pig are processed into pepperoni, along with spices.”

What?

I had to rewind the tape and replay it.

It made me extra thankful to be Jewish in that moment. I wanted to vomit.

I had grown up eating pork and didn’t stop until law school, so I knew how good pepperoni tasted on pizza. I had consumed more than my fare share in college.

Like most people, I knew that hot dogs, pepperoni and the like weren’t cut from the same part of the animal as a ribeye steak, but I had no idea the kinds of things that were included in the final product.

Had I known, I probably would’ve thought twice about it. I would imagine some pork-eating…

--

--

Jeffrey Kass
ZORA
Writer for

A Medium Top Writer on Racism, Diversity, Education, History and Parenting | Speaker | Award-Winning Author | Latest Book: Black Batwoman V. White Jesus | Dad