Thursday, September 21, 2006

while everyone was fretting about bovine growth hormone, apparently standardized pork slipped in under the radar

For followers of last week's puzzle feature:
In one word, what do the following things have in common from a sociology

pigs----->railroad------>wall outlet
Rachel has posted a follow-up in my comments:
Hello everyone, this is Rachel aka the desparate undergrad. I actually found
out that the answer to the puzzle is standardization. At first I wrote my
teacher a paper linking the three words to commodification. She said I was
close and gave me a push in the right direction. Anyways rest easy now,
standardization is the answer! My teacher actually gave me a printed copy of
these postings with a note at the bottom saying very resourceful! Thanks for
all your help!
Okay, so I have actually taught a undergraduate sociology course in which I used "standardization" on the first day as a way of orienting students the sociology at hand. When I saw railroad and wall outlet in Rachel's first e-mail, I thought immediately of standardization. But I didn't offer this as an answer--and, instead, first offered up "commodification" (you're welcome, Rachel)--because I thought to myself, "How are pigs standardized?" Now that Rachel reports that standardization is the answer, I think to myself, "How are pigs standardized?"* Well, as they say, 2 of 3 isn't bad. And it does have me imagining a Muppet Show skit Pigs in Space, Episode II: Attack of the Clones.

* I mean, they have "standards" for the pork industry, but I wouldn't normally use the word "standardization" for the adoption of regulatory standards.


John B. said...

Rachel appears excited to be a student!

Anonymous said...

maybe it has something to do with the proliferation of industrial-scale hog farming, etc., but that's hardly clear from the original question.

Anonymous said...

apparently I am destined to fail at sociology because I have no idea what standardization has to do with pork.

tina said...

can it be the same as with vegetables, in that there used to be lots of different varieties of tomatoes, and now there are few? were there formerly lots of different sorts of pigs we raised for consumption, and now we only raise those scary giant ones?

Gwen said...

a. The pork industry uses a very small number of genetic lines of pigs, leading to extremely similar size, shape, and rate of gain of pigs.

b. The growing conditions are entirely standardized and mechanized to the highest degree possible, such that you can shedule in advance when a pig will be inseminated, when she will give birth, when her piglets will be weaned, and exactly how many days and pounds of (identical) feed it will take to get that piglet to market weight.

3. This leads to standardization at the slaughter house, as the genetic similarity of the pigs and the practice of raising them in identical conditions leads to quite uniform carcasses that do not require highly-skilled workers that can alter their practices, allowing slaughterhouses to deskill labor and assign each person one specific cut to make in exactly the same way on every carcass.

Anonymous said...

Alright, Gwen, admit it... you're Rachel's teacher!

Anonymous said...

Harper's May 2006:

Swine of the Times. The Making of the Modern Pig