IN MEAT WE TRUST: An Unexpected History of Carnivore America

Jacket Design Final
Coming Fall 2013

Read the Introduction

The moment European settlers arrived in North America, they began transforming the land into a meat-eater’s paradise. Long before revolution turned colonies into nation, Americans were eating meat on a scale the old world could neither imagine nor provide: an average European was lucky to see meat once a week, while even a poor American man put away about two hundred pounds a year.

According to the catalog copy (ahem) (Is this plagiarism?) (I’m kidding!), the book leads readers from that colonial paradise to the urban meat-making factories of the nineteenth century to the hyperefficient packing plants of the late twentieth century. From Swift and Armour to Tyson, Cargill, and ConAgra. From the cattle bonanza of the 1880s to modern feedlots. From agribusiness to today’s “local” meat suppliers and organic countercuisine.

Along the way, it explains how Americans’ carnivorous demands shaped urban landscapes, midwestern prairies, and western ranges. How/when/why the American way of meat shifted from source of pride to axis of controversy.


Yeah, okay. Enough of the catalogish chatter. You get the picture, right? The rest is yada. But if you’ve a mind, take a gander at this SHORT explanation of how the meat history book idea found me. (Yes, you read that correctly.)

(But — cool! — it doubles as a historical record of my state of mind and brain c. summer, early autumn 2006. Weird days indeed, friends. [And chops to the digital age for making that piece of the historical record possible and for preserving it.])

Even better, read the entire Introduction of the book here. (Neato keeno, eh?)

THANK YOU FOR READING THIS. Readers rock. So do writers. You rock, I rock, we all rock.

Oops. Absurdity slip. Your prize for reading this far: Please regard this last wisp of blog entry as the true afterword of the book:

Author, recently finished with massive, seven-year project and trying to unwind, giggles at self, somewhat maniacally, on her own blog. [I believe commas in previous are correct. I dread the day on which complex comma-use expires, dodo-like, crushed by competitors in a tumultuous ecosystem.]

5 thoughts on “IN MEAT WE TRUST: An Unexpected History of Carnivore America

  1. Hi Maureen,

    I am interested and would like to further investigate doctored, manipulated or fake videos of animal abuse regarding meat manufacturing plant.

    You were mentioned in a Los Angeles Times report regarding animal abuse inside Central Valley Meat Co. on August 22, 2012.

    Your statement is as follows “”It seems like an incredible rush to judgment,” she said,
    noting that in some previous incidents at other meat-processing plants, videos were later found to have been doctored or manipulated.”,0,1444137.story

    Can you please cite examples that can back up your claim
    of videos that were later found to have been doctored or manipulated.

    Looking forward to your response,


    Ray Kay

  2. Hi, Ray: As is nearly always the case, that LA Times report misstated what I told the reporter to whom I talked: I told her that I had HEARD of doctored videos. Presumably if there are some, you can find evidence of them by using Google. I also told her that these videos are likely edited to show random examples of employee behavior. The vids reflect only a few minutes (and sometimes only seconds) of activity during an eight-hour work day.

    I also told her what is obviously true: video can be made to show anything anyone wants. You and I can shoot footage of an event and doctor that film to present what we want the viewer to see. Did that happen in this case? I have no idea. Nor, however, did the officials who chose to shut down the plant.

    I also told the reporter what I believe to be true: situations like this are extraordinarily complicated and rushing to judgment based on an emotional response is foolish and misguided. My guess is that if you owned a business, you wouldn’t want someone shutting it down without just cause. (And it goes w/out saying, but I’ll say it anyway: “cruelty” is in the eyes of the beholder. What an animal rights activist, for example, sees as cruel may be, to someone else, a measured response to a specific situation. Eg, suppose a packing plant employee shoots an animal but it doesn’t die. That employee shoots again. Is that cruel? Or necessary?

    And, too, rights activists seem to believe, wrongly in my opinion, that everyone ought to share their view that animals ought not be eaten. That’s an unreasonable expectation. I eat very little meat myself, but I don’t expect you or anyone else to adhere to my dietary example.

    As for my other point, I believe that in this case, as in similar cases it’s unfair to shut down a company based solely on evidence from by people advocating a specific agenda. (Remember the NPR executive who resigned after a conservative activist recorded their lunchtime conversation? Turns out that the activist doctored the tape in order to misrepresent what the man had said. Did that make you mad? Did you think that was fair?)

    And for the record: I do not advocate animal cruelty in packing plants or anywhere else. What I do advocate is a reasoned analysis of packing plant activities. Video shot by animal rights activists will never provide such an analysis.

  3. Excuse me, Maureen, but this morning your Twitter feed (Wed. August 22, 2012), has you praising the L.A. Times writer for getting it right: “Chops to LA Times reporter for not misrepresenting what I said. ”

    Now you’re saying she did in fact misrepresent what you said?

    There’s a rather large difference between :

    (1) “She said, noting… ‘that videos were later found to have been doctored or manipulated ‘ ”
    (2) “I had heard that videos were later found to have been doctored”

    One [actually printed] is a flat claim containing no qualifiers such as “I had heard” or “I am given to believe that some videos….”.

    Will you be asking the L.A. Times to correct your statement?

    Oh, and your stance here:

    “What I do advocate is a reasoned analysis of packing plant activities. Video shot by animal rights activists will never provide such an analysis ”

    Also has no qualifiers at all attached to it. The activities in question are “Animal cruelty.” Are you saying that 1,000 hours of video showing blatant, demonstrable animal cruelty shot by “an activist” is inherently dismissible as never being able to provide analytic value in itself, simply because it was shot by an activist?

    Or do you agree that it can form the basis of actions taken to substantiate cruelty claims?

    In such cases as Central Valley Meat Co., you claim the USDA was unjustified in placing the public health first and shutting down the plant?

    Did YOU know if any of the animals involved were afflicted with disease or not? Why would it NOT be prudent to shut down the plant and check?

    Is it merely imprudent because you “heard” that some videos, somewhere, sometime had been doctored ? This seems rather flimsy, given that people’s lives could be at stake. Yet you view the USDA’s actions as over-zealous?

    No offense intended, but your notion of reasoned analysis that excludes a priori –, with no exceptions given, video shot by an activist seems biased in itself. I can see why some have labeled you a shill, frankly. Your claims are either sloppy or servile, and neither should be a source of pride .


Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s