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The Meat Racket: The Secret Takeover of America's Food Business Kindle Edition
"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
"This eye-opening investigation into the semi-shady practices governing one of the nation's fundamental industries will make readers question how these megacompanies were ever allowed to grow so large and powerful.... A compelling in-depth exposé of the concentration of wealth and power at the heart of the U.S. meat industry."-- "Shelf Awareness for Readers"
Leonard, former national agribusiness reporter for The Associated Press, pulls off a stunning feat in putting the heat on the major industrial meat giants.-- "Publishers Weekly"
"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"
"A meticulous exposé of the meat industry... Leonard, whether he means to or not, is also telling a broader story about American business, consumerism, and--most of all--greed... What makes The Meat Racket stand out is Leonard's superb storytelling and his clear passion for the topic...He is a man on a mission--and that is clearly the best kind of reporter to write a book like this."--Jessica Valenti "Bookforum"
"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"
"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"
"Brilliant...a book that at times burns slow and hot with outrage and at other times proceeds at the ecstatic pace of a thriller."-- "New York Times Book Review"
"I will admit when I picked up this book, it was more with the sense that it was something I should read than something that would be a page turner. And yet it immediately drew me in. Christopher Leonard's power is the ability to capture the human lives caught within the system, particularly the farmers but also the employees who helped build the corporations... this book is a compelling reminder that we all have a stake in how this business is conducted."--Sarah J. Gardner "Radish Magazine"
"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"
"Leonard's book argues that a handful of companies, led by Tyson, control our meat industry in ways that raise concerns about the impact on animals and humans alike, while tearing at the fabric of rural America."-- "Nicholas Kristof, The New York Times"
"One of the best books of investigative reporting that I've seen in quite a while...if you think muckraking is dead or even on its last legs, The Meat Racket is proof positive that it's very much alive. The big question is whether or not there are any reformers and regulators left who have the will and the strength to pick up the ball and run with it."-- "Strategy + Business"
[A] scorcher of a book.-- "The Daily Beast (Top 10 Nonfiction Books of 2014)"
Gripping...The Meat Racket is a riveting book, and the picture Mr. Leonard paints is a disturbing one.-- "Wall Street Journal"
Only a very good writer could turn a story about chickens, hogs and cattle into a thriller, and Leonard is that. He brings his characters to life. . . . The book is a scary portrait of capitalism run amok.-- "Bethany McLean, The Washington Post" --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
About the Author
- ASIN : B00DX0F4J6
- Publisher : Simon & Schuster; Reprint edition (18 February 2014)
- Language : English
- File size : 2449 KB
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- Screen Reader : Supported
- Enhanced typesetting : Enabled
- X-Ray : Enabled
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Print length : 385 pages
- Best Sellers Rank: 283,131 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
- Customer Reviews:
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Reviewed in Canada on 26 July 2020
Leonard gets out of the way of the story he is trying to tell. He manages to square the paradox of conveying admiration for the ambition and accomplishments of pioneers like Don Tyson while also seeing the fruits of those achievements clearly: hollowed-out towns across rural America, and meat this is made efficiently, but ruthlessly.
Leonard dissects the distinct histories of the poultry, pork, and beef industries with precision and care. He is never preachy; where he indicts standard industry practices, he does so on the basis of meticulously gathered evidence. But he knows how not to get bogged down--the details he presents are always telling ones.
He writes with the intimate ease of an expert about both regulatory maneuvering in Washington, DC and farmers and ranchers in Arkansas and Iowa.
If you want to understand how America works today, read this book.
If you want to know how that boneless, skinless chicken breast in the supermarket was created from a chicken, how it became poultry, read this book.
It is a serious book, but also a quick read that captures you with the fluidity of its prose.
This is a remarkably insightful book, reflecting the author Christopher Leonard's deep and careful research and skilled writing. The book covers much more than just the evolution of the Tyson chicken empire, though that is the inspiration of the work. Don Tyson was the business genius who led his family firm to the heights of power and depths of iniquity which Leonard explains so clearly, and which inspired so many other businesses. Leonard capped his research by interviewing Don Tyson himself.
In the meat business, although the "farmers" contribute both financial and human capital essential to the overall enterprise they do not share in its profits. Each firm like Tyson owns all the elements of its overall business which have economies of scale (feed-mixing, hatchery, slaughter, marketing) but delegates the labor-intensive step of actually raising the animals on capital-intensive farmsteads to hapless peons. The peons do not ask for overtime or better wages as employees would, they do not shirk, they force their children to labor without pay-- because they think of themselves as "independent farmers," for a few years at least. They are not independent at all-- firms like Tyson supply the chicks, the feed, the medicines-- everything-- and take the grown chickens away every few months. Since the farmers don't own the animals they raise they cannot sell them into the market but must take whatever payment-- large or small-- their sponsoring firm decides to give them. They can't even quit easily because they owe huge mortgages on their farms, which Tyson and similar firms actually steer them to get.
The concept and practice of chickenization has spread beyond the raising of meat animals. It is essentially how so-called "sharing" businesses like Airbnb or Uber and various similar competitors work.
Airbnb owns all the good parts of its business. It does not tie up capital in dwelling rooms-- hosts supply those using mortgages for which they are solely liable (Airbnb refers new hosts to lenders for a commission)-- and does not employ housekeepers or maintenance staff-- as "independent businessmen" the hosts clean and patch. Uber is similar-- drivers buy the cars that Uber chooses with loans arranged by Uber, then to pay off those loans they drive Uber's customers around when Uber tells them to in return for payments set unilaterally by Uber (plus occasional tips). The drivers fuel and maintain the cars and pay all the taxes on them. Like chicken farmers, Airbnb hosts and Uber drivers contribute financial and human capital essential to the overall business, they work without minimum or overtime wages for payments set unilaterally by chickenizing firms, but they do not share in the overall profits.
Competitively, Airbnb destroys hotels and Uber destroys taxi firms because chickenization drives down capital and labor costs so effectively. What firm can afford a hundred-million-dollar mortgage on a hotel when a competitor uses a ragtag army of hosts to provide an equivalent number of rooms using independent capital? Worse, what firm can afford to employ housekeepers or drivers, with all the overhead of managing them and accepting liability for their actions, when a competitor uses "independent businessmen" who work furiously without supervision because they're desperate to make their next loan payment?
Reading "The Meat Racket" will teach you how to recognize chickenization in any industry (it's common in fast-food and small-retail franchising). That alone would justify the book, but the story Leonard tells, of the plight of the farmers, the history of the Tyson firm and the other firms which emulated it, the remarkable lives of Don Tyson, his father, and the people around them, is so interesting that you can read the book for sheer entertainment. For either or both, read this book.