“You’re labeled a troublemaker if you go turn people in,” worker Rodney Beaird said. “What was (done) in there stayed in there. They stressed that.” Beaird’s son, Anthony, who said he worked at Cedarcrest from 2011 to 2014, said he also witnessed workers beating pigs with boards and with leather straps when they would not move fast enough. “If people knew what happens behind closed doors, I guarantee they would look at bacon different,” he said.

Piglets often huddled around the mother sows when workers tried to move them, Jockisch said, and workers were allowed to guide the animals gently with their rubber work boots. But when the piglets didn’t move quickly enough, he said, “you’ll see them kick them.”

The Tribune reported in August in its “Price of Pork” investigation that workers at Illinois swine confinements rarely file complaints of animal mistreatment with the Illinois Bureau of Animal Health and Welfare, the arm of the state Agriculture Department that oversees animal welfare laws.

The understaffed bureau did not find a single animal welfare infraction or violation at a hog confinement during the past five years, the Tribune found in a review of thousands of pages of bureau records.