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In Meat We Trust: An Unexpected History of Carnivore America [Kindle Edition]

Maureen Ogle
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (47 customer reviews)

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Book Description

The untold story of how meat made America: a tale of the self-made magnates, pragmatic farmers, and impassioned activists who shaped us into the greatest eaters and providers of meat in history

"Ogle is a terrific writer, and she takes us on a brisk romp through two centuries of history, full of deft portraits of entrepreneurs, inventors, promoters and charlatans.... Ms. Ogle believes, all exceptions admitted, that [the food industry] has delivered Americans good value, and her book makes that case in fascinating detail." —Wall Street JournalThe moment European settlers arrived in North America, they began transforming the land into a meat-eater’s paradise. Long before revolution turned colonies into nation, Americans were eating meat on a scale the Old World could neither imagine nor provide: an average European was lucky to see meat once a week, while even a poor American man put away about two hundred pounds a year.

Maureen Ogle guides us from that colonial paradise to the urban meat-making factories of the nineteenth century to the hyperefficient packing plants of the late twentieth century. From Swift and Armour to Tyson, Cargill, and ConAgra. From the 1880s cattle bonanza to 1980s feedlots. From agribusiness to today’s “local” meat suppliers and organic countercuisine. Along the way, Ogle explains how Americans’ carnivorous demands shaped urban landscapes, midwestern prairies, and western ranges, and how the American system of meat making became a source of both pride and controversy.

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Ogle (Ambitious Brew: The Story of American Beer) lucidly demonstrates how the American meat-making machine came to span the entire continent, from the grass-rich range of the Far West to slaughterhouses and wholesale markets at the other , with farmers squeezed throughout the middle. Ogle tracks the rise of factory farming, the introduction of subsidies for farmers, and the use of chemicals in animal husbandry, each in light of the consumer-advocacy backlash that spawned the organic and alt-agriculture movements. Ogle's quick wit helps her corral such a large topic, keeping the involved history to an easily digestible format. Given the recent onslaught of publications picking sides on the issues of food production, Ogle's bipartisan approach is a breath of fresh air. In fact, if Ogle has issue with anyone in the food chain, it is the American people and our sense of entitlement and the way it contributes to the high cost of cheap living. This type of straightforwardness might make the book hard to stomach for some, but it can't be denied that Ogle has served up a lot of truth. Agent: Jay Mandel, William Morris Endeavor (Nov.)

From Booklist

Buy local! Eat organic! Grass-fed beef is best! These declarations are no longer the cries of sustainable farming activists on the fringe. Rather, the middle class has begun to champion a return to small-scale meat production, with cattle, pigs, and chickens that aren’t hopped up on antibiotics or growth hormones happily roaming the family farm. The problem with this utopian dream, according to Ogle, is that mom-and-pop farms never actually dominated the landscape at any point in American history, since they could never meet the country’s insatiable appetite for bountiful, low-cost meat. Instead, the agribusiness behemoths that have become villains in contemporary consciousness are actually examples of innovators and entrepreneurs who have kept our fickle nation fed. Ogle traces the stories of meat-industry movers and shakers, from colonial times to the present, and lambasts those she sees as reactionary, self-serving whistle-blowers, including Upton Sinclair and Ralph Nader. A well-researched history of the American meat industry that will appeal to readers looking for a counterpoint to Fast Food Nation (2001) and The Omnivore’s Dilemma (2006). --Amye Day Ong

Product Details

  • File Size: 1766 KB
  • Print Length: 387 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0151013403
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (November 12, 2013)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #108,973 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Meat Industry History November 10, 2013
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Maureen Ogle's thoroughly researched history of the American meat industry is like a well done steak - very thoroughly 'cooked" but a little bit dry. While she manages to cram many facts and historical figures into her well-documented book, she doesn't always manage to tie everything together well enough to provide a single compelling narrative for the reader. The book reads in some ways like a series of research papers - each one excellent by itself, but not cohesive as group.

If you are interested in how the modern meat industry got to where are today - there really is no better book available. I truly learned a lot reading it - but it felt a bit like homework at times. If you are hoping for a thrilling one-subject book like Mark Kurlansky's Cod: A Biography of the Fish that Changed the World, this probably isn't the book for you. That being said Ms. Ogle's book does provide insight and information with extensive endnotes and bibliography - I wanted to like it more than I actually did.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
By eyecore
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Being very informative doesn't have to mean very dry and lacking in entertainment value; unfortunately, it does happen a lot in this book. The amount of interesting things to see how we got to factory farms and such of today was eye opening, and I'm between 3 and 4 stars. But enough about the stars...

What Ogle (the author) has done here is present a mostly-balanced history of how meat was produced in America up to present day. This is about the farmers and companies raising the livestock and getting it to your table...not so much about how and why Americans love to eat so dang much meat. (Maybe because it's obvious: it's DELICIOUS!) It briefly touches on American's pride for having cheap meat readily available and a sign of wealth and greatness, but really, it's the "from birth of the beast to your grocery store" kind of book.

And with that, it's interesting. Like how grass fed used to mean stringy meat, but grass fed now commands a premium. And it's about improving on the challenge of getting a herd of cattle from your farm, across several states...alive...and then slaughtering them. While it doesn't sound all that interesting on the surface, if you are someone that wants to understand how we got to where we are today, this book provides a fantastic, detailed history.

Overall, I'd recommend this if you're actually interested in the history. If you're looking for a more entertaining "documentary," you're likely to be disappointed. The author here is mostly balanced, and isn't overtly trying to push an agenda, but rather educate.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
By Theseus
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
This is a popular history of the American meat industries which begins in the early days of America where the average person could get their hands on -- compared to the average person back in Europe -- really a quite a lot of meat at a very reasonable price. The author argues that having lots of reasonably priced meat is one of the essential characteristics of America.

The book moves through the (truly disgusting) industrial revolution slaughterhouses and waxes a little rhapsodic about cattlemen on the plains with their beef cows. Throughout, this book seems quite well-researched and does not spend too much energy decrying the downsides of massive meat consumption by human beings. Still, this book is not immune to the subtleties of history and the author is to be commended for this.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars How Now, Ground Cow? October 30, 2013
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
If you think Michael Pollan might be a little too one-sided, then In Meat We Trust is for you. In Meat We Trust is written for the general reader, but it's quite rigorous, delving into the history of meat in America from pre-Revolutionary times to the present day. It combines history and politics with a smattering of chemistry and some humor thrown in. And, like Michael Pollan, author Maureen Ogle isn't shy about where she stands on issues involving meat.

From the settlement of the West dotted with buffalo herds, to the railroads and giant stockyards, from family farmer to hyper-efficient conglomerates, In Meat We Trust looks at the big picture of how America became so meat-centric. It seemed almost inevitable that with so much land, Americans would want to raise cattle, but how did pigs and chickens rival beef for popularity? Ogle explains it all and it's a pretty interesting story.

The 20th century brought some big changes, with the government becoming ever more involved, as it tried to balance the rights of the meat producers with the rights of those who wanted to live without the stench of manure or the risk of meat-borne disease.

Ogle's sympathies seem firmly with the cattlemen, who all seem to be tall and Stetson-ed. Occasionally, she makes a questionable claim that isn't backed up by her copious endnotes, such as "Price hikes as small as a penny a pound have inspired Americans to riot, trash butcher shops..." and "An urban majority screamed bloody murder if the price of steak rose 5 cents a pound..."

Also recommended -- Beef: The Untold Story of How Milk, Meat, and Muscle Shaped the World

Slaughterhouse Blues: The Meat and Poultry Industry in North America (Case Studies on Contemporary Social Issues)
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars Meat Industry Propaganda
The subtitle is more apt than the author may have intended. In the second decade of the 21st century, who would have expected that a history of the American meat industry... Read more
Published 4 days ago by Norm Phelps
5.0 out of 5 stars Comprehensive and a good read
Maureen Ogle's new book, "In Meat We Trust" is a treasure trove of information about the meat industry. Read more
Published 6 days ago by Jon Hunt
4.0 out of 5 stars In Meat We Trust
An excellent multi-view look at the American love of meat and its repulsion of the process of producing enough to feed hundreds of millions of people. Read more
Published 11 days ago by Kate
4.0 out of 5 stars fair portrayal
This was a fair portrayal of the meat we eat. I especially enjoyed the characterizations of the men who risked it all to build large,efficient packing companies that have prospered... Read more
Published 13 days ago by Michael Satzow
5.0 out of 5 stars Thorough and Engaging!
Such a fascinating book that is enjoyable, thorough and meticulous. Recommended for anyone interested in this country's tragic history with food, disease and the works!
Published 15 days ago by Jeremy S. Block
4.0 out of 5 stars Who Knew That Meat Was So Interesting?
This is a very good, very interesting book on a subject that I had not previously given much thought to, one way or another. Read more
Published 17 days ago by TopCat19
4.0 out of 5 stars Meat Isn't The Problem, But What It's Become Is
Maureen Ogle does a fabulous job of sharing the history of our meat-based heritage and how it all began at the founding of the United States. Read more
Published 21 days ago by Livin' La Vida Low-Carb Man
5.0 out of 5 stars Why do farmers....
If you eat,read this book. Many criticize modern agriculture.Many say we should return to our grandparents day when food was more simple... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Jan Hoadley
5.0 out of 5 stars What kind of society do we want to create?
Can we have the best of both worlds: a majority urban population and small-scale agriculture too?

Maureen Ogle’s book, //In Meat We Trust: An Unexpected History of... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Axie Barclay
5.0 out of 5 stars A must read for foodies
An honest look at the history of meat production in the US. Well researched and well written. A must read for meat eaters and meat producers alike.
Published 1 month ago by Jay Fulmer
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More About the Author

I'm a historian and ranter living three-dimensionally in Iowa and digitally at

My mission, which, yes, I've decided to accept, is to convert history haters into history lovers. Because let's face it: just about everyone leaves high school hating history. And that's too bad, because history is the story of the human experience --- and what's not to love about humanity?

For more information (because you DO want to know more, right?) visit And thanks for making reading part of your life.

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