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NAFTA's Trojan Horse & the Demise of the Mexican Hog Industry

University of Miami Inter-American Law Review, Vol. 42, No. 2, pp. 1-23, 2011

Vermont Law School Research Paper No. 11-17

24 Pages Posted: 24 Jun 2011  

Pamela A. Vesilind

University of Arkansas School of Law; Vermont Law School


In the last twenty years, Mexican animal agriculture - breeding, raising, and slaughtering pigs, cattle, and poultry (chickens and turkeys) - has undergone a radical transformation that has left the country with more meat but far fewer farmers. In many ways, this transformation echoed the industrialization of agriculture in the southern and mid-western United States in the late 1980s and the 1990s, with one critical distinction: In the U.S., domestic corporations led the agriculture transformation. Not so in Mexico, where the catalysts were primarily foreign-owned, multinational corporations, mostly second-generation corporations to the American agriculture, “revolution.” These industrial farming corporations thrived in Mexico, but their success has been devastating to Mexican agriculture.

How did this happen? The answer lies in the trade liberalization policies of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), signed by Canada, Mexico, and the United States in 1993. Using the Mexican hog industry, this article illustrates how poorly-negotiated NAFTA provisions were manipulated to exploit Mexican consumers, farm owners, and laborers. Part I discusses NAFTA’s tariff rate quotas, and how they failed to protect Mexican hog farmers. It explains how foreign-owned corporations were able to apply a two-sided strategy to take over more than one-third of domestic pork production while developing Mexico into a leading importer of U.S. pork products. Part II briefly reviews the primary arguments why industrial animal farms, colloquially called “CAFOs” (confined animal feeding operations) are ultimately unsustainable without considerable government support. It then elaborates why the CAFO model is even more unsustainable in emerging nations like Mexico. The article concludes with a short discussion of the reasons the U.S. pork lobby actively resists NAFTA reform.

NAFTA’s Trojan Horse is an adaptation of a presentation at the May 2010 Global Politics of Food: Sustainability and Subordination conference, in Mexico City, Mexico.

Suggested Citation

Vesilind, Pamela A., NAFTA's Trojan Horse & the Demise of the Mexican Hog Industry. University of Miami Inter-American Law Review, Vol. 42, No. 2, pp. 1-23, 2011; Vermont Law School Research Paper No. 11-17. Available at SSRN:

Pamela A. Vesilind (Contact Author)

University of Arkansas School of Law ( email )

312 Waterman Hall
Fayetteville, AR AR 72701
United States
9199495884 (Phone)

Vermont Law School ( email )

68 Windsor Street
P.O. Box 60
South Royalton, VT 05068
United States

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