Synopses & Reviews
From the minute it openedandmdash;on Christmas Day in 1865andmdash;it was Chicagoandrsquo;s must-see tourist attraction, drawing more than half a million visitors each year. Families, visiting dignitaries, even school groups all made trips to the South Side to tour the Union Stock Yard. There they got a firsthand look at the cityandrsquo;s industrial prowess as they witnessed cattle, hogs, and sheep disassembled with breathtaking efficiency. At their height, the kill floors employed 50,000 workers and processed six hundred animals an hour, an astonishing spectacle of industrialized death.
Slaughterhouse tells the story of the Union Stock Yard, chronicling the rise and fall of an industrial district that, for better or worse, served as the public face of Chicago for decades. Dominic A. Pacyga is a guide like no otherandmdash;he grew up in the shadow of the stockyards, spent summers in their hog house and cattle yards, and maintains a long-standing connection with the working-class neighborhoods around them. Pacyga takes readers through the packinghouses as only an insider can, covering the rough and toxic life inside the plants and their lasting effects on the world outside. He shows how the yards shaped the surrounding neighborhoods and controlled the livelihoods of thousands of families. He looks at the Union Stock Yardand#39;s political and economic power and its sometimes volatile role in the cityandrsquo;s race and labor relations. And he traces its decades of mechanized innovations, which introduced millions of consumers across the country to an industrialized food system.
Although the Union Stock Yard closed in 1971, the story doesnandrsquo;t end there. Pacyga takes readers to present day, showing how the manufacturing spirit lives on. Ironically, today the site of the legendary andldquo;stockyard stenchandrdquo; is now home to some of Chicagoandrsquo;s most successful green agriculture companies.
Marking the hundred-and-fiftieth anniversary of the opening of the stockyards, Slaughterhouse is an engrossing story of one of the most importantandmdash;and deadliestandmdash;square miles in American history.
"Pachiratand#8217;s extraordinary narrative tells us about much more than abused animals and degraded workers. It opens our eyes to the kind of society in which we live."and#8212;Peter Singer, author of Animal Liberation
and#8220;The book is superbly written, especially given the grimness of the subject.and#8221;and#8212;Mark Bittman, The New York Times, Opinionator column
and#8220;A lucid writer, Pachirat excels in explaining how a slaughterhouse works.and#8221;and#8212;Ted Conover, The Nation
"A fascinating, gut-wrenching study—but absolutely not for the weak of stomach."—Kirkus Reviews Ted Conover - The Nation
"A fascinating, gut-wrenching studyand#8212;but absolutely not for the weak of stomach."and#8212;Kirkus Reviews
andquot;Pacyga is the great bard of Chicago-historian, raconteur, social critic. Slaughterhouse is a critically important book about one of the cityand#39;s epic neighborhoods.andquot;
andquot;For many people Henry Fordandrsquo;s 1913 Detroit assembly line is a symbol of technological triumph. This book shows that Chicagoandrsquo;s 1865 disassembly line was an earlier more complete wonder, rapidly transporting animals, keeping them healthy and watered, dividing them into a wide variety of of products, communicating ownership and destination, and keeping meticulous accounts of all the processes. The speed and dexterity were put on display, proudly exploiting labor, advertising efficiency, making Chicago incredibly wealthy. This is a stunning account of the growth, complexity, rewards, and costs of modernity.andquot;
andquot;Pacyga has taken as his subject a single square mile, a small patch of urban land on the south side of Chicago, and has told an epic storyandmdash;the rise of the Union Stockyards and Packingtown, their heyday as a great industrial complex and engine of modern America, their precipitous decline after World War II and their unexpected recent resurgence as a site of new industrial possibilities. It is a big story of rapid, and frequently unsettling, economic, technological, and social change, and Pacyga has told it in a vivid and compelling way.andquot;
andldquo;Pacyga has written an intimate, elegant, fascinating, and informative story of one of Americaandrsquo;s greatest industrial complexes. As Pacyga shows, the dismal, exploitative, vibrant, and contested histories of the stockyards and the meatpacking factories are illustrative of both the fractured dynamics of American industrial capitalism and the rise and fall of the great industrial city of Chicago. Slaughterhouse is vital reading for all concerned with urban, industrial, and social history.andrdquo;
A political scientist goes undercover in a modern industrial slaughterhouse for this twenty-first-century update of Upton Sinclairand#8217;s The Jungle
This is an account of industrialized killing from a participantand#8217;s point of view. The author, political scientist Timothy Pachirat, was employed undercover for five months in a Great Plains slaughterhouse where 2,500 cattle were killed per dayand#8212;one every twelve seconds. Working in the cooler as a liver hanger, in the chutes as a cattle driver, and on the kill floor as a food-safety quality-control worker, Pachirat experienced firsthand the realities of theand#160;work of killing in modern society. He uses those experiences to explore not only the slaughter industry but also how, as a society, we facilitate violent labor and hide away that which is too repugnant to contemplate.
Through his vivid narrative and ethnographic approach, Pachirat brings to life massive, routine killing from the perspective of those who take part in it. He shows how surveillance and sequestration operate within the slaughterhouse and in its interactions with the community at large. He also considers how society is organized to distance and hide uncomfortable realities from view. With much to say about issues ranging from the sociology of violence and modern food production to animal rights and welfare, Every Twelve Secondsand#160;is an important and disturbing work.
An engrossing and startling history of Chicagoand#8217;s Union Stock Yard, Dominic Pacygaand#8217;s meticulous and fresh book addresses more than the rise and fall of the industrial district that for so long was a critical part of what defined Chicago, its immigrants, its economy, its environmental health (or lack thereof), and its politics. While Pacyga knows those aspects like few others doand#151;having grown up in the Back of the Yards neighborhood and worked in the stockyards himself as a young manand#151;he has here unearthed a history of gruesome spectacle amid the flowering of industrial modernity. A tourist attraction, an industrial marvel, and the crucible of our industrialized food system, the stockyards have long been a critical part of what made Chicago Chicagoand#151;and even today, innovation continues to flourish there, as new forms of agriculture and industry take shape on this charmed site.
About the Author
Dominic A. Pacyga is professor of history in the Department of Humanities, History, and Social Sciences at Columbia College Chicago. He is the author or coauthor of several books on Chicago, including Chicago: A Biography and Polish Immigrants and Industrial Chicago: Workers on the South Side, 1880andndash;1922, both published by the University of Chicago Press.
Table of Contents
Confronting the Modern in Chicagoandrsquo;s Square Mile
Facing the Modern World
From Swamp to Industrial Giant
3 Working in the Yards
The Move to the Modern
4 andldquo;Success Comes to Those Who Hustle Wiselyandrdquo;
The Emergence of the Greatest Livestock Market in the World
5 Slaughterhouse Blues
The Decline and Fall of the Union Stock Yard
6 Innovate for Efficiencyandmdash;Though with Less Stench
The Square Mile after the Union Stock Yard