Bologna Smugglers

The border of the US and Mexico has a smuggling problem. One that causes hundreds of pounds of meat to illicitly flow into the US. This high-value item is definitely unexpected. It's bologna. Madeleine Aggeler at Texas Monthly tells us more.

The bologna arrives in darkness. Hundreds of pounds cross into the U.S. from Mexico at once. Rolls are stuffed into the backs of SUVs, sewn into car seats, shoved into spare tires, or hidden in suitcases beneath heaps of shirts and socks. Once, in El Paso, a U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer drilled into a car’s bumper and the bit came out pink, covered in the slimy residue of lunch meat.

Texas Monthly

The rolls of "chubbs" are relatively cheap down in Mexico, costing less than $20. However, in the US they can be marked up to close to $100, which makes them desirable. Aggeler's reporting goes into some of the details about this oddity but it comes down to a single factor: nostalgia.

People who moved to the US have fond memories of certain bologna they cannot get here. To them, it is more flavorful and a piece of home. So, there is a demand, and plenty of people are willing to attempt smuggling meats into the country in order to fulfill that need.

The confiscating of the meats makes sense: the government is trying to stop the possible diseases that can be in the meat from entering the country. It is a safety issue. It is a whole operation the Department of Agriculture employs to make sure everything is found. Aggeler also goes behind the scenes to see how they do it.

My favorite part of this piece is this: the DoA incinerates the meats it finds. "[It's a] process that CBP officials told me results in fragrant, hot dog–scented plumes of smoke that waft through the area."