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The Meat Racket: The Secret Takeover of America's Food Business Hardcover – February 18, 2014


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The Meat Racket: The Secret Takeover of America's Food Business + In Meat We Trust: An Unexpected History of Carnivore America
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; First Edition edition (February 18, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1451645813
  • ISBN-13: 978-1451645811
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.1 x 1.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (63 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #78,774 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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

Review

“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)

"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)

"Gripping...The Meat Racket is a riveting book, and the picture Mr. Leonard paints is a disturbing one." (Wall Street Journal)

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 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)

“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 (starred))

“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)

“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)

“Cruelty, greed, and monopoly power--that is what Christopher Leonard has found at the heart of America's meat packing industry. This book offers a devastating portrait of an industry's irresponsible behavior.” (Eric Schlosser, author of Fast Food Nation)

“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)

 “A meticulous exposé of the meat industry . . . 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)

"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)

“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)

“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)

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.
www.themeatracket.com

Customer Reviews

It will definitely change your eating and shopping habits.
BlucheGirl
I can't say enough about the author's writing style, investigative reporting, and his ability to keep the reader engaged.
M. Eggleston
Meat production is dominated by a very small number of big businesses, creating a scenario that holds us all hostage.
Syndi

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

58 of 59 people found the following review helpful By Konstantin Kakaes on 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.

HIGHLY RECOMMEND
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53 of 56 people found the following review helpful By Lynn on February 18, 2014
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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22 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Macey625 on 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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41 of 45 people found the following review helpful By takingadayoff TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on February 18, 2014
Format: Hardcover
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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