The Chain

The Chain

Farm, Factory, and the Fate of Our Food

Harper, 2014




  • Controversial
  • Eye Opening
  • For Experts


Award-winning journalist Ted Genoways exposes practices in America’s pork-producing industry so upsetting that you may change what you eat. Genoways alleges that meat-packing giant Hormel Foods tolerated unhealthy working conditions and animal mistreatment. He asserts that focusing on profit alone can distort a company’s humanitarian values. He discusses intolerance for immigrants who arrive, legally or illegally, seeking better lives for their families. While noting that the summary reflects the author’s observations and opinions, getAbstract recommends his timely health messages, business warnings and concern for animal welfare to anyone interested in corporate responsibility, immigration and eating healthily.


“The Brain Machine”

Matthew Garcia couldn’t keep his food down and ached all over. He thought he had the flu, but his symptoms were a sign of something more sinister. Several months before he fell ill, Garcia had begun working at a processing plant that provided pig parts to meat-packing giant Hormel Foods. He ran the brain machine, blowing brains out of pigs’ skulls. Garcia worked eight hours daily, with no breaks to eat or wash. His health began to deteriorate. When his legs became paralyzed, doctors diagnosed an autoimmune-induced “severe spinal cord inflammation.” Because of his workplace conditions, Garcia prepared to be in a wheelchair for the rest of his life.

Hormel Foods was a modest company until the Depression of 1893, when George Hormel (1860-1946) found he could ship hogs inexpensively in railroad refrigeration cars. He figured that financially stressed folks would eat more inexpensive smoked and cured meat, so he invented Canadian bacon. His son and successor, Jay Hormel, created canned Hormel Chili and Dinty Moore Stew. Sales grew but salaries didn’t, so disgruntled workers unionized. Jay employed bullying tactics against the workers but eventually offered...

About the Author

Writer and Mother Jones contributing editor Ted Genoways won the James Aronson Award for Social Justice Journalism. He also wrote two books of poems and a biography titled Walt Whitman and the Civil War. He won a National Press Club Award and the James Aronson Award for Social Justice Journalism, and he has received NEA and Guggenheim fellowships.

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