The Chain

The Chain

Farm, Factory, and the Fate of Our Food

Book - 2014
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Baker & Taylor
An acclaimed journalist 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, and expose such alarming trends as pollution, abused animals and more. 25,000 first printing.


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.

& Taylor

Looks at the conditions in American meat-processing through the story of the Hormel Foods product Spam, and how pressure to increase supply has led to inhumane and dangerous conditions and produces meat of doubtful quality, as well as other negative social effects.

Topical Term: Meat industry and trade
Food processing plants
Factory farms
Industrial safety
Publisher: New York, NY : Harper, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, [2014]
Edition: First edition
ISBN: 9780062288752
Branch Call Number: HD9415 .G46 2014
Characteristics: xiv, 305 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm


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Mar 26, 2018

This book is dishonest. Not in the sense that it outright lies, but it is dishonest in the sense that it fools you into believing it is one thing, when in reality it is something else entirely. This book claims to be about meat and the meat processing industry, but it is really about illegal immigration. It starts off with the history of Hormel and how they created Spam. Then it segues into how unethical they are, especially to the poor illegal immigrants who make all the exploitation possible.

Then it keeps going on and on about illegal immigrants. It mostly forgets all about the meat business business all together.

What gives? Why didn't the author just write a book about illegal immigration? Why pretend that this is an expose in the meat industry and then sneak up on us with this pro-illegal immigration stance? I find this deceptive and manipulative. I don't like being a mark, and that's what this book does - makes me feel like I'm the target of some kind of propaganda.

The only reason I didn't give this book 1 star was that it was decently written and well researched.

Feb 03, 2015

In the past decade or so, consumers have become much more aware of and interested in their food sources and while this has lead to a boom in farmer's market, local suppliers, and more sustainable practices, the industrial-agricultural complex rolls on undaunted and unconcerned. Following in the steps of Upton Sinclair and Eric Schlosser, Nebraskan journalist Ted Genoways explores the dangers of factory farming in the form of the mistreatment of animals, the use of potentially harmful antibiotics and hormones, and the human cost. Focusing on Hormel and the manufacturing of pork, Genoways paints a harrowing picture of animal abuse, dangerous working conditions, and horrifying injuries on a workforce that relies heavily on immigrants. Genoways doesn't break a lot of new ground, but it's an important book that should be read by those who care about their food (which should be everyone), how it's made, and where it comes from.


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