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The Meat Racket: The Secret Takeover of America's Food Business [Kindle Edition]

Christopher Leonard
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (73 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $28.00
Kindle Price: $12.74
You Save: $15.26 (55%)
Sold by: Simon and Schuster Digital Sales Inc

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Book Description

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.

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

“Before there is a chicken or an egg, there is Tyson.” 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. Putting human faces on economic statistics, Leonard documents the stories of exploited farmers, some of them Laotian immigrants seeking the American dream but driven to bankruptcy. Market control by these near monopolies has spread beyond chicken into pork and beef production as well. Leonard recounts the history of the Tyson family and how the generations have structured the corporation’s exponential growth over the past decades, an expansion that even the American government appears powerless to rein in. --Mark Knoblauch


"Filled with interesting history of how the meat industry got to where it is and how government has attempted to reign it in, the sad story is laid out through excellent journalistic reporting. Narrator John Pruden's fittingly somber tone conveys the gravity of the situation. " ---Library Journal Audio Review

Product Details

  • File Size: 2340 KB
  • Print Length: 385 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster (February 18, 2014)
  • Sold by: Simon and Schuster Digital Sales Inc
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00DX0F4J6
  • Text-to-Speech: Not enabled
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  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #84,779 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
61 of 62 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thought-provoking and deeply reported February 18, 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This is a fundamentally compassionate book. It is compassionate towards the small meat producers who are squeezed by modern economies of scale, and compassionate towards the titans of industry that created these economies.

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.

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55 of 58 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Engaging and well written February 18, 2014
By Lynn
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I am a poultry farmer and I appreciate Mr. Leonard's shedding light on the way the industry operates. In the last seven years I have seen expenses increase with no increase in the amount I am paid per pound of chicken and in fact have seen my income fall due to production cuts, yet I have seen the large poultry companies report record profits.
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24 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An extraordinary book, difficult to put down March 3, 2014
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
The Meat Racket is an honest and thoughtful account of the current state of meat production in our country. As a Midwestern, middle class wife and mother of a meat-eating family of five, I appreciated the window into a world that would not have been seen without this in-depth examination.

Christopher Leonard spent a decade exploring every aspect of the modern meat production process. A fascinating view into the world of Tyson and the other major meat producers is provided through Mr. Leonard’s patience to obtain a complete story from Tyson's beginning to present.

He manages to secure a meeting with Don Tyson and develops relationships with influential Tyson executives who elaborate on their experiences and roles in bolstering the company to incomparable growth. And perhaps the most significant interviews are those with the actual farmers, telling the stories of lives that are mortgaged upon a deep trust of hard work, the American dream…and the meat companies.

What surfaces from the extensive research is a winner-take-all story about how meat production in the United States shifted into the hands of a few vertically integrated companies. Through this centralized control and the filtration of profits to the top, Tyson & its few allies have become an unstoppable force, even against a determined President Obama and U.S. Department of Agriculture. In Chapter 12, ‘Street Fight (2010 – 2011),’ the meat industry’s power to influence, prevent, and shape laws is illuminated. As I reader, I was left wondering ‘how much power is too much?’

Whereas many books regarding the meat industry focus on the realities of the animal experience, The Meat Racket concentrates on the human experience.
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45 of 49 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Chickenization of America February 18, 2014
When did chicken become tasteless? I can remember some years ago when it actually had a flavor. Same with beef. According to journalist Christopher Leonard, this is the result of a decades long "chickenization" of the meat industry.

Most of The Meat Racket follows the history of Tyson Foods and its transformation of the chicken industry in America. It isn't a simple story of either big bad corporation or of the genius of unfettered capitalism. You can draw your own conclusions about the benefits versus the drawbacks, but you have to know the story first, and this is as good a place as any to start. Leonard's research is impressive and he's covered a lot of ground to get the facts.

In the same week I read this book, I also happened to read George Packer's article in The New Yorker about Amazon and was struck by the similar way that Tyson and Amazon scoop up competitors and make no bones about trying to eliminate competition. Tyson early on began buying out their competition, even when they weren't particularly interested in owning the companies, because they wanted to prevent others from buying them and possibly getting an advantage on Tyson. As a customer, you appreciate the low prices they provide and the predictable quality. But after the competition has been neutralized, the giant that's left can dictate conditions and prices to suppliers and to customers as well. The supplier and customer have little choice since their are no longer other options.

Leonard also describes the lack of action on the part of the government, at state and federal levels. Several attempts to apply anti-trust laws have been unsuccessful for a variety of reasons.

Some people may admire the business genius of John and Don Tyson, while others will wonder if chickenization is the future of food, retail, and even books.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Well written, but maybe biased
I don't know much about the industry or Tyson, but the book seemed slightly biased against Tyson. It was well written.
Published 1 day ago by Doug P
5.0 out of 5 stars It does not portray Tyson as the criminal he truly ...
It does not portray Tyson as the criminal he truly was. But, at least he could not take it with him . May his soul rest in hell.
Published 5 days ago by Mike Salem
5.0 out of 5 stars This is a phenomenal book. It's so carefully written ...
This is a phenomenal book. It's so carefully written and fair and kind to the antagonists of the story (e.g. Read more
Published 15 days ago by J. Hintz
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Good priced rental.
Published 18 days ago by ssandradee
4.0 out of 5 stars Well written and thorough, almost
One area that was not sufficiently explored but is foundational to "chickenization" is the tax payer backing of bank loans. Read more
Published 22 days ago by Petersen Family
5.0 out of 5 stars Even those who think they know enough about the horrors ...
Even those who think they know enough about the horrors of how our animals are raised for meat must read this and discover the half of it that they don't know--what it's doing to... Read more
Published 25 days ago by Joan Dye Gussow
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Excellent history and great analysis of the current situation. If you need to know this stuff.
Published 29 days ago by J. D. Zimmerman
5.0 out of 5 stars If You Eat, Read This Book
Best book I have ever read on modern agriculture. A must read not only for farmers, but for anyone who eats. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Bubbles
3.0 out of 5 stars Scheming about meat...
I was hoping for a guide on how to use Dr. Racket. Instead, I found myself very educated on how bad my meat is. My life is forever changed.
Published 1 month ago by Mitch Olson
5.0 out of 5 stars Unlike the review in the Washington Post I did not ...
Unlike the review in the Washington Post I did not find any inconsistencies in Leonard's reporting. Everyone in this country should be greatly concerned with the quality of food... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Wayne Dickson
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More About the Author

Christopher Leonard is the former national agribusiness reporter for the Associated Press. His work has appeared in Fortune, Slate, and The New York Times. He is a Schmidt Family Foundation fellow with The New America Foundation, a nonpartisan public policy institute in Washington, DC. A graduate of the University of Missouri School of Journalism, he lives outside Washington, DC.

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