Happy pigs adorn pork-packing plant that makes Dodger Dogs

Profile of the Farmer John pork packing plant in Vernon, Calif. from 89.3 KPCC on Vimeo.

The Vernon-based Farmer John pork-packing plant is the second-largest employer in the industrial city of Vernon.

Last baseball season, you may have heard a new ad campaign pushing old-fashioned Dodger Dogs.

Maybe you even got a free one at a baseball game.

You know, those hot dogs people slather with relish, ketchup and mustard at Dodger Stadium? Those commercials came from Vernon-based Farmer John pork-packing plant, the second largest employer in the industrial city.

The exterior of the pork-packing is 30,000 square feet of painted pigs.

According to the company’s Web site, brothers Francis and Bernard Clougherty started Farmer John’s parent company Clougherty Packing in 1931.

This is the plant that makes Dodger Dogs.

The mural wasn’t painted until 1957 when Bernard “Barney” Clougherty commissioned artist Les Grimes to fill the empty walls with pastoral pigs. Grimes ended up spending 11 years working on the project until he died on the job. He fell off the scaffolding he was using to paint the blue sky.

After Grimes died, the mural legacy continued with Arno Jordan. More artists have helped up keep the pastoral scenes. These include Philip Slagter and Alex Garcia.

While the pigs on the outside of the slaughterhouse seem happy enough, besotted with their bucolic scene, there are some hints of darkness, like the signs pointing the way to the slaughterhouse entrance and the smoke rising up from the plant. But, these aren’t the piggies who have to worry.

Despite the bizarre contrast between happy farm animals and the smell of smoked sausage, it’s still worth a look. Just for the spectacle of an industrial complex that has incorporated art into its facade.

This story is part of a collaboration between KPCC.org and Intersections: The South Los Angeles Report.

Photo credit: Jake de Grazia

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