Following a week of hot debates that put the blame for the removal of pork dishes from prison menus on everything from chicken and beef industries to Washington-backed Muslim lobbyists, pork roast is back in federal prisons.
On Thursday, the Bureau of Prisons made the announcement. The change was backed by a GOP Senate leader that deemed the decision to remove pork dishes from inmates’ menus a move that lacked transparency and common sense.
In the U.S., 547,800 Americans work for the pork industry, which adds $39 billion to the GDP every year, Sen. Charles E. Grassley told the Bureau of Prisons in an open letter. Moreover, the U.S. is the third-largest pork producer in the world and the largest exporter on the planet.
Grassley warned that the removal of pork from federal prison menus may affect the lives of those working for the pork industry in an unprecedented manner. The new policy came into effect October 1, and it affected 206,000 federal prisoners.
But the policy was not to the pork industry’s taste, who tried to make federal regulators backpedal on the issue ever since the policy was enacted. Muslim communities were concerned about a backlash from anti-Muslims who may blame Muslims that they pulled some strings at the White House to ban pork from prison (Muslims consider pork an unclean animal, so they don’t eat it.)
Bureau of Prisons’ Edmond Ross was surprised when he learned that federal officials changed their minds on the issue so fast.
“I’m not cleared to say anything and I don’t have answers for you,”
he told reporters Thursday.
He added that the bureau may issue an explanation as early as Friday. In a last week’s press conference, Ross told journalists that according to surveys pork was no longer a favorite dish among federal inmates. As a result, since 2013, prison menu gradually removed bacon, sausages and pork chops, and retained pork roast.
The prison bureau said last week that the removal of pork roast was also caused by high price of pork. Yet, for Grassley that was a hard pill to swallow. He requested from the bureau copies of the inmate surveys that showed a lack of interest in pork products and an approximate cost to perform those surveys.
Grassley also urged the bureau to show him the documents that sggest pork is more expensive than beef or chicken. The prison bureau said that the prison pork ban was not associated to Muslim interests.
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