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In Meat We Trust: An Unexpected History of Carnivore America Hardcover – November 12, 2013

60 customer reviews

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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
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (November 12, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0151013403
  • ISBN-13: 978-0151013401
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.2 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (60 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #202,984 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

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

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 maureenogle.com. And thanks for making reading part of your life.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

20 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Thom Mitchell VINE VOICE on 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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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Kelly Sottelbaum on December 12, 2013
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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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Carol Kean VINE VOICE on November 27, 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This book, or the history in it, should be party of every U.S. high school curriculum. I don't know how many other books (if any) cover the same information, but this one is very objective, unbiased, comprehensive and eye-opening. I was expecting it to turn into a vegan rant, but it didn't, even though America's love affair with meat is embarrassing; our consumption of it is shocking; the land and resources we dedicate to it are questionable. Maureen Ogle starts with the novelty of livestock in the New World. Natives as early as the 1600s were annoyed by trampling cattle. Land grabs, ranches, cattle drives, stock yards, meat factories, railroads--a whole new industry, based on America's demand for meat, formed the U.S. economy.

America's shift from rural to urban is summarized in easy-to-read form. My only suggestion would be to break up the text with subject headers, maybe even bullet items, if this were used in the classroom.

Americans want cheap food, odor-free air, quality meat and disposable income, but we can't have it all. Factory farming has come under fire, and the locavore movement would free us of it, but Maureen Ogle reminds us that factory farming freed us from the need to grow and process food. Instead of spending all our time planting seeds and pulling weeds, we can "instead dream big, think deep, and yes, launch crusades...Factory farming's biggest crop is intellectual capital. So, thanks, Big Ag--and the USDA and family and corporate farmers--for giving us the cheap food that has nourished an extraordinary abundance of creative energy. Now let's do something with it. Let's decide what kind of society we want--not what kind of farming, no what kind of meat."

I like this book so much, I'd buy copies to give to friends. Vegans don't need to read it, but meat eaters definitely should.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Theseus on November 13, 2013
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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