Ethical restauranteur Jay over at the Linkery blog is having an interesting dialogue with a representative from Sysco about the White Marble Farms pork brand. Jay was the first (and pretty much only) person to comment online about the misleading marketing of this industrial meat product; I subsequently stumbled on it in a San Francisco restaurant and wrote about it for the Chronicle's food section.
"Short Legger," the Linkery's commenter, is not very well informed about the pork's provenance. He/she asserts in his/her comment that the pork is process-verified by the USDA, and that by saying that the pork comes from "small midwest, sustainable farmers" that claim must be verified. As part of my original research I had found the USDA's listing for Cargill's Process-Verified pork program. Cargill supplies the pork to Sysco to sell under its own White Marble Farms brand; Sysco is not listed by the USDA as having any Process-Verified Programs. The specifications for the program cover only the meat quality and fat makeup.
My interview for the Chronicle with Gary Huber, coordinator of the Practical Farmers of Iowa's Pork Niche Market Working Group, confirmed that the "farms" supplying Cargill can in no way be considered sustainable operations.
Further, "Short Legged" claims that Niman Ranch pork could come from pigs that have eaten just about any dead thing, as pigs are carnivores. Actually, pigs are omnivores, but family farmers do not as a rule tend to feed them corpses of miscellaneous provenance. This is a slimy scare tactic that tries to make "factories" seem more sanitary and safe than farms.
Something I did not mention in my original post about White Marble Farms: A certain Sysco salesperson who shall go unnamed told me (in a phone interview that I recorded) that Niman Ranch beef was more often than not "burnt-out dairy cows" with no quality assurance. This is most certainly false.
If I were Niman Ranch, I would have a lot of questions for Sysco and seriously reconsider continuing to sell beef and pork through this distributor.