A powerful and important work of investigative journalism that explores the runaway growth of the American meatpacking industry and its dangerous consequences.
On the production line in American packinghouses, there is one cardinal rule: the chain never slows. Every year, the chain conveyors that set the pace of slaughter have continually accelerated to keep up with America’s growing appetite for processed meat. Acclaimed journalist Ted Genoways uses the story of Hormel Foods and soaring recession-era demand for its most famous product, Spam, to probe the state of the meatpacking industry, including the expansion of agribusiness and the effects of immigrant labor on Middle America.
Genoways interviewed scores of industry line workers, union leaders, hog farmers, and local politicians and activists. He reveals an industry pushed to its breaking point and exposes alarming new trends: sick or permanently disabled workers, abused animals, water and soil pollution, and mounting conflict between small towns and immigrant workers.
The narrative moves across the heartland, from Minnesota, to witness the cut-and-kill operation; to Iowa, to observe breeding and farrowing in massive hog barns; to Nebraska, to see the tense town hall meetings and broken windows caused by the arrival of Hispanic workers; and back to Minnesota, where political refugees from Burma give the workforce the power it needs to fight back.
A work of brilliant reporting, The Chain is a mesmerizing story and an urgent warning about the hidden cost of the food we eat.