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Agricultural News

Pork Roast Back on Federal Prison Menus after Iowa Senator Grassley Makes Them Squeal

Mon, 19 Oct 2015 03:38:17 CDT

Pork Roast Back on Federal Prison Menus after Iowa Senator Grassley Makes Them Squeal After claiming that multiple years of surveys of prisoners had culminated in the decision to eliminate pork from the menus of Federal prisons- the Bureau of Prisons has reversed that decision just days after it became public knowledge and after Senator Charles Grassley of Iowa had written a letter demanding details of those surveys that the Bureau had used to pull pork from the menus.

In his letter dated last Thursday- Senator Grassley wrote "I am writing to express my concerns regarding the decision made by the Federal Bureau of Prisons to remove all pork products from federal prison menus. Although this decision apparently was made several months ago, it was only made public upon the start of the new fiscal year.

"According to a spokesman for the Bureau of Prisons, the decision was based on a survey of prisoners’ food preferences that reflected that pork has been the “lowest-rated food” by inmates for a number of years.

"To corroborate the validity of the claim that prisoners indicated a lack of interest in pork products, I am requesting copies of the prisoner surveys and responses that were used to support the determination to no longer serve pork in federal prisons. Additionally, the spokesman indicated that pork had been the lowest rated food, “for several years.” Please supply the surveys and responses dating back as far as prisoners may have indicated their dislike for pork products. In addition, please provide a line item description of the costs incurred to conduct each survey performed.

"The Bureau of Prisons’ spokesman indicated that pork was expensive to provide. Please provide any economic evaluations the Bureau of Prisons has relied on that detail the cost of pork as compared to beef, chicken, and non-meat products such as tofu and soy products."

Senator Grassley happens to be the Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and has direct oversight of the Bureau of Prisons as the Chair.

According to the Washington Post, Bureau of Prisons has no explanation as to why they have changed their minds. "Edmond Ross, a spokesman for the prison bureau, could not explain what prompted the government’s quick turnaround. “I’m not cleared to say anything, and I don’t have answers for you,” he said late Thursday. An explanation from senior prison officials could come later, he said."

The Bureau had, over the years, quietly dropped bacon, pork chops and sausage from their menus and was down to pork roast when it had decided that as of October first, that would be removed as well. The Bureau spokesman indicated that pork roast was the only item being returned to the menus of the prison system at this time.

Grassley is chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which oversees the federal prison system.

The new pork policy has affected 206,000 federal inmates since it started Oct. 1 with the new fiscal year.

On Friday, RollCall reports that Senator Grassley is pleased but still wants the Bureau to answer the questions in his letter. “The decision by the Bureau of Prisons to completely remove pork from its menus was ham-handed at best. I appreciate the quick decision after my letter to the bureau to keep pork products on prison menus,” the Iowa Republican said in a statement. “That’s good news for the American economy.”

In his update Friday, Grassley made clear that he still wanted BOP to address his questions about the original policy change, despite the reversal: “But, there are still questions about how the original determination was made and the cost of conducting the surveys. None of that’s been answered, and it ought to be. I look forward to receiving a response to my letter.”

The National Pork Producers Council, the Washington, D.C.-based trade association that represents the nation’s hog farmers, had pledged earlier that it would not “rule out any options to resolve this” and was busy formulating a strategy to fight the prison pork ban.



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