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The Meat Racket: The Secret Takeover of America's Food Businessby Christopher Leonard
Synopses & Reviews
The biggest takeover in American business that you’ve never heard of.
The American supermarket seems to represent the best in America: abundance, freedom, choice. But that turns out to be an illusion. The rotisserie chicken, the pepperoni, the cordon bleu, the frozen pot pie, and the bacon virtually all come from four companies.
In The Meat Racket, investigative reporter Christopher Leonard delivers the first-ever account of how a handful of companies have seized the nation’s meat supply. He shows how they built a system that puts farmers on the edge of bankruptcy, charges high prices to consumers, and returns the industry to the shape it had in the 1900s before the meat monopolists were broken up. At the dawn of the twenty-first century, the greatest capitalist country in the world has an oligarchy controlling much of the food we eat and a high-tech sharecropping system to make that possible.
Forty years ago, more than thirty-six companies produced half of all the chicken Americans ate. Now there are only three that make that amount, and they control every aspect of the process, from the egg to the chicken to the chicken nugget. These companies are even able to raise meat prices for consumers while pushing down the price they pay to farmers. And tragically, big business and politics have derailed efforts to change the system.
We know that it takes big companies to bring meat to the American table. What The Meat Racket shows is that this industrial system is rigged against all of us. In that sense, Leonard has exposed our heartland’s biggest scandal.
"Cruelty, greed, and monopoly power — that is what Christopher Leonard has found at the heart of America's meat packing industry. This book offers a devastating portrait of an industry's irresponsible behavior." Eric Schlosser, author of Fast Food Nation
"An engrossing report on the industrialized American meat business...a richly detailed examination of factory farming, which has reshaped small-town life for the worse....An authoritative look at a ruthlessly efficient system." Kirkus Reviews
"Leonard's primary concern is the grim and gripping story of how American meat went industrial. But he also spins a nuanced tale of how the family farm was America's first small business — and what we've lost by letting it go. A fascinating read." Tracie McMillan, author of The American Way of Eating
"A minor miracle of reporting. Tyson isn't the sort of company that likes to show reporters around its operations....Leonard managed to penetrate that secrecy, and has painted an intimate picture of the company and the people who made it." Grist
"In his eye-opener to the inner workings of the corporations that control and manipulate the nation's meat supply, journalist Leonard reveals how these vertically integrated behemoths operate to the detriment of both farmers, who do the hard and risky work of raising animals, and consumers, who have actually fewer true choices when shopping in the grocery store or ordering at the local fast-food franchise." Booklist
"A fascinating look at what has happened in the past decades to the meat business as huge companies essentially staged a takeover while no one, except struggling farmers, paid mind." New York Daily News
An investigative journalist takes you inside the corporate meat industry — a shocking, in-depth report every American should read.
How much do you know about the meat on your dinner plate? Journalist Christopher Leonard spent more than a decade covering the country’s biggest meat companies, including four years as the national agribusiness reporter for the Associated Press. Now he delivers the first comprehensive look inside the industrial meat system, exposing how a handful of companies executed an audacious corporate takeover of the nation’s meat supply.
Leonard’s revealing account shines a light on the inner workings of Tyson Foods, a pioneer of the industrial system that dominates the market. You’ll learn how the food industry got to where it is today, and how companies like Tyson have escaped the scrutiny they deserve. You’ll discover how these companies are able to raise meat prices for consumers while pushing down the price they pay to farmers. And you’ll even see how big business and politics have derailed efforts to change the system, from a years-long legal fight in Iowa to the Obama administration’s recent failed attempt to pass reforms.
Important, timely, and explosive, The Meat Racket is an unvarnished portrait of the food industry that now dominates America’s heartland.
About the Author
Christopher Leonard is a Bernard L. Schwartz Fellow with The New America Foundation, a nonpartisan public policy institute in Washington, DC. He is the former national agribusiness reporter for the Associated Press and a graduate of the University of Missouri School of Journalism. He lives outside Washington, DC.
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