Cut, Kill, and Carry
Hidden behind a four-story warehouse in South St. Paul is an outpost of unremarkable buildings that house Long Cheng Hmong Livestock & Meat Processing. The largest is a yellow metal shed. Near the entrance hangs a hand-lettered sign: "Warning: No kill or service after 5:00 p.m." On this drizzly Tuesday morning, deep puddles have formed throughout the uneven parking lot. Inside the shed, a dozen or so people stand watching two men in white hardhats, work clothes, and rubber boots butcher pigs for Long Cheng, a family-owned slaughterhouse that sits at ground zero in a dispute over the future of the small city's meatpacking tradition.
Before the mighty Swift and Armour plants closed (in 1969 and 1979, respectively), thousands of workers wielded knives and slaughtered livestock here. At its peak, during World War II, the Swift factory employed more than 5,000 people. Unlike its relatives from earlier this century, though, Long Cheng, whose owners are Hmong, doesn't deliver its products to the supermarket. Its customers show up at the plant, choose a live animal — usually a pig, chicken, or cow — and watch employees kill, cut, and package the meat for on-the-spot carryout.
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