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The Meat Racket: The Secret Takeover of America's Food Business Hardcover – February 18, 2014
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"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)
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Top Customer Reviews
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.
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.Read more ›
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.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Didn't care for the topic after diciding to go vegan. Sorry about that but my health has to come first.Published 1 month ago by R. Zeek Seseika
An avid Planet Money fan, this book suits my interest in understanding issues through people's lived experience. And I'll never eat chicken again unless it's farm to table.Published 1 month ago by Ashley T
A very interesting read; has a lot of harsh truths about Tyson foods and the chicken industry.Published 2 months ago by maria g mora
. This is all about the chickenization of the meat business (poultry, pork and beef) along the lines pioneered by John and Don Tyson in the vertical and then horizontal... Read morePublished 4 months ago by Fred P.
Well written and interesting book that does a good job of explaining how "vertical integration" of the agricultural industry has affected small businesses, consumers and... Read morePublished 5 months ago by Gerald T. Randklev
Our law firm specializes in representing the food industry. This is required reading for anyone who eats food whether you are a pro or not.Published 6 months ago by George Salmas
This book is such garbage.
I work in the meat industry, and this is the same tripe social justice warriors, animal rights activists, and other intellectually lazy 'all... Read more