WASHINGTON – Senator Chuck Grassley, Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, is pressing the Bureau of Prisons about its decision to eliminate pork products from its menu.
In a letter to Federal Bureau of Prisons Director Charles Samuels, Grassley expressed concern about the lack of transparency used in the decision and the taxpayer dollars used to conduct surveys of prisoners’ food wishes.
“Pork is largely a product of the United States that provides tremendous economic benefit to the country along with being an economical food. For that reason alone, it doesn’t make sense to eliminate it from prison meals, but to spend taxpayer dollars surveying prisoners about what they did or didn’t like about the meals they were being served seems completely backwards,” Grassley said.
A copy of the text of Grassley’s letter is below. A copy of the signed letter can be found here.
October 15, 2015
VIA ELECTRONIC TRANSMISSION
Director Charles E. Samuels, Jr.
Federal Bureau of Prisons
320 First St., NW
Washington, DC 20534
Dear Director Samuels:
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.
The United States produces upwards of 92 percent of its own pork. Alternative products may be more likely to be imported. The pork industry is responsible for 547,800 jobs, which creates $22.3 billion in personal incomes and contributes $39 billion to the gross domestic product. The United States is the world’s largest exporter of pork, and the third largest producer of pork. This unprecedented decision to remove pork from all federal prisons will have consequences on the livelihoods of American citizens who work in the pork industry.
I am requesting the Federal Bureau of Prisons to answer my questions and to provide the surveys and any data that was used when making this sweeping decision no later than November 2, 2015.
Please send your responses and any questions to my Committee staff at (202) 224-5225. Thank You.
Charles E. Grassley