Whole Hog: The power of pork

Dree Deacon (UNC '15)

Dree Deacon (UNC ’15)

When I tell people I spent my summer writing about hogs, I’m met with strange looks.

I joined a team called Powering a Nation in early May 2014. Powering a Nation, based at UNC-Chapel Hill’s School of Journalism & Mass Communication, annually forms a savvy lineup of current and aspiring journalists and designers who have a passion for the political, economic and scientific impact of working US citizens on this country’s consumption of energy and hopes for sustainability. This year’s project was called Whole Hog: The Power of Pork.

Last year, at the NC Clean Tech Summit, the Whole Hog team met Tom Butler. Tom is a hog farmer in eastern North Carolina, one of many. But Tom is different from his peers—Tom takes something bad… and turns it into something good.

Hog waste, contained in football-field size lagoons across eastern North Carolina, contains a heavy pollutant called methane. Methane is actually worse for the environment than carbon dioxide.

Tom Butler captures the methane produced by the waste of his hogs and—get this—turns it into energy.

Tom’s story is just the beginning.

The history of North Carolina’s pork industry is shaped by community tensions and the struggle for power, pitting activist against neighbor, corporation against reporter, and neighbor against neighbor.  We named the project ‘Whole Hog’ for this reason. Our report is more than a story about one community or one state. It is a story of global responsibility.

As the editorial editor and business reporter for Whole Hog, I communicated with almost every cog in the pork machine, from local producers to international processors. I also acted as the team’s public relations correspondent, producing press releases and managing our social media presence.

I am currently pursuing a bachelor of arts in business journalism, a dual degree program with the Kenan-Flagler Business School, and a minor in social and economic justice. I am a senior writer for The Daily Tar Heel and I also manage social media directives for the UNC Summer School. I joined Powering a Nation for experience and professional growth, both of which I enjoyed while on the team.

Powering a Nation granted me the opportunity to speak with and learn from North Carolina individuals with astonishing goals and unrelenting persistence, a gratifying experience that I hope shines through in Whole Hog.

By Dree Deacon (UNC ’15)