That headline sounds like something you would see on one of those ridiculous tabloids displayed at the grocery store checkout. I assure you that this is no joke. It is a sad commentary on the massive and unhealthy factory farm industry, and the chemicals and byproducts used in livestock feed. The results are literally explosive.
Large factory farms in America’s heartland have been battling this growing phenomenon for the past few years. According to published reports, a mysterious foam begins forming on barn roofs, and atop pits of hog manure. The foam can obstruct ventilation until gasses trapped inside the barn explode, often killing hundreds to thousands of pigs.
The foam traps gases like methane and when a spark ignites it causes an explosion. About a half dozen barns in the Midwest have exploded since the foam was discovered in 2009.
In mid-September 2011, a barn in Iowa was added to the growing number of barns taken down by the foam. In the explosion, 1,500 pigs were lost, and one worker was injured.
So, what the hell could be causing this? Until definitive research can be completed, everyone has a theory…
The cause of the foam is still unknown, although there are indications that the source may be new species of bacteria that have evolved in the barns’ manure pits — in many hog barns the manure is stored underneath the barn before transfer to those notorious manure lagoons.
Another possible cause for reasons that remain unclear may be the routine practice of feeding pigs dried distillers grains, a byproduct of ethanol production. Less innocuous than they sound, dried distillers grains — though made from corn and nominally edible — are nothing more than industrial waste. They are also laced with antibiotics.
WATCH (use caution if you’re squeamish):