Federal inmates with cravings for bacon wrapped tenderloin must now fork over their own money for crispy pork rinds or dried jerky from the commissary, following a recent decision by the Obama administration to remove all pork meats from the national prison menu. The federal Bureau of Prisons, which runs 122 federal penitentiaries and provides three meals a day to 206,000 inmates, instituted the pork ban with the start of the new fiscal year last month, the Washington Post reported.
The decision was based on a survey of prisoners’ food preferences that found most inmates don’t like the taste of the “other white meat,” prison officials said. But the nation’s pork producers are not buying that explanation and see it as an economic risk to the industry.
“Why keep pushing food that people don’t want to eat?” Edmond Ross, spokesman for the prison bureau, told the Post. “Pork has been the lowest-rated food by inmates for several years” and got more expensive for the government to buy, Ross added.
The National Pork Producers Council, which represents the nation’s hog farmers, said it was outraged by the decision and planned to mount an effort to reverse 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,’” Dave Warner, spokesman for the Washington-based pork council, told the Post. “We wouldn’t rule out any options to resolve this.”
A national Muslim civil rights organization has praised the move as one that accommodates a wider array of faith traditions among inmates, including observant Muslims who are forbidden from consuming pork. “In general we welcome the change because it’s facilitating the accommodation of Muslim inmates,” Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, told the Post. “We hope it’s not an indication of an increasing number of Muslims in the prison system.”
Hooper added that anti-Islam groups would seek to spin the government’s decision into a case of mounting pressure from Muslims. “This is just the kind of thing that drives them crazy,” he said. “It will stoke the fires of Islamophobia based on the usual conspiracy theories.”