The nation’s pork producers are in an uproar after the federal government abruptly removed bacon, pork chops, pork links, ham and all other pig products from the national menu for 206,000 federal inmates.
The ban started with the new fiscal year last week. Observant Muslims and Jews are forbidden to eat pork, but the Bureau of Prisons, which is responsible for running 122 federal penitentiaries and feeding their inmates three meals a day, said the decision was based on a survey of prisoners’ food preferences: They just don’t like the taste of pork.
“Why keep pushing food that people don’t want to eat?” asked Edmond Ross, a spokesman for the prison bureau. “Pork has been the lowest-rated food by inmates for several years,” It also apparently got more expensive for the government to buy, although he did not provide specifics.
The National Pork Producers Council isn’t buying it. “I find it hard to believe that a survey would have found a majority of any population saying, ‘No thanks, I don’t want any bacon,’” said Dave Warner, a spokesman for the Washington-based trade association, which represents the nation’s hog farmers. […]
The prison system has long made accommodations for Muslims and Jews by providing alternatives to pork and halal and kosher foods. Ross declined to say whether there has been an increase in Muslim or Jewish inmates in recent years and whether that may have factored into the survey responses.
“In general we welcome the change because it’s facilitating the accommodation of Muslim inmates,” said Ibrahim Hooper, a spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the country’s largest Muslim civil rights advocacy group. “We hope it’s not an indication of an increasing number of Muslims in the prison system.”