How the rise of Iowa’s largest “hog baron” explains the transformation of a state
In the late 1970s, Jeff Hansen started to breed three sows on his father’s Iowa farmstead. Today, his company, Iowa Select Farms, brings 5 million pigs to market every year. Vox and the Food and Environment Reporting Network tell the story of Iowa’s largest “hog baron,” whose unfettered growth helps explain the state’s transformation into a heavily polluted landscape, dominated by highly concentrated livestock operations. In Iowa, where hogs outnumber people 7 to 1, major pork producers have huge political clout—and there is none bigger than Hansen, who keeps expanding over the protests of community organizations, environmental groups, and a chorus of others saying enough is enough.