This article traces the rise and fall of garbage feeding on swine farms in Secaucus, New Jersey. Between the late nineteenth century and the 1950s, Secaucus swine farmers fed their herds on food waste from New York City’s hotels and restaurants, providing them an economical way not only to produce pork, but also grease, a garbage by-product sold to soap makers. The growth of Secaucus’ swine farms began after nuisance trades like piggeries and bone-boiling plants were exiled from Manhattan in the mid-nineteenth century. By the 1890s a German-dominated swill trade with Manhattan was well entrenched. During World War I, state officials encouraged garbage feeding as a way of increasing pork production. By the 1950s, however, concerns over trichinosis and the construction of the New Jersey Turnpike pushed out the swine farms. On the one hand, garbage feeding in New Jersey shows that rural regions like Secaucus were enveloped into urban markets in the late nineteenth century. Yet, Secaucus also complicates the image of “urban imperialism” that pervades hinterland literature, demonstrating how hinterland neighbors often capitalized on urban waste.

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