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The Meat Racket: The Secret Takeover of America’s Food Business

3.99  ·  Rating Details ·  422 Ratings  ·  99 Reviews
An investigative journalist takes you inside the corporate meat industry—a shocking, in-depth report every American should read.

The biggest takeover in American business that you’ve n ever heard of

The American supermarket seems to represent the best in America: abundance, freedom, choice. But that turns out to be an illusion. The rotisserie chicken, the pepperoni, the cor
Hardcover, 384 pages
Published February 18th 2014 by Simon & Schuster
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Dec 10, 2013 Andrew rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
We all like meat but don't want to think about where it comes from. And I'm kind of fine with that. Presumably regulation - well enforced - protects animals from undue cruelty. So we remain complicitly sheltered. For the alternative, expensive and rare meat, study dietary habits of the Middle Ages. I have.

But The Meat Racket blows apart our happy myths in its chronicling of the human cost of cheap, plentiful meat. It records the dominance integrated corporations hold over farmers and national fo
Fast Food Nation made many people aware of the dangers of our current food system to consumers. The Meat Racket uncovers and explains the development of monopoly in the American meat industry that has largely destroyed the independent family farm level control of meat production. Through careful and thorough research, Leonard is able to explain how a few large companies, led by Tyson in the poultry industry and followed by Smithland and a few others in the pork and beef industries, have entrappe ...more
Nicole Rhaven
Christopher Leonard certainly did his homework. This book is also extremely well written. It is obvious that Leonard is intelligent.
I learned a lot while reading this book and went over a lot that I already know.
I know that Tyson owned chickens, but I guess I never really thought about pigs and cows in that area. I mean I did, but I didn't think there were Tyson owned, but I really wasn't surprised at all.
Tyson is this huge soulless company, who just destroy everything that it touches; people,
Oct 18, 2016 Kevinthorson rated it liked it
The title definitely oversells the excitement and reach of this book. In the end, it is a high-level history of the development of Tyson foods and it's rise to a dominant position in the oligopolistic chicken and pork industries. The book's primary focus along the way is the pressure Tyson and its brethren put on its powerless rural farmers.

Well written, pretty informative, and as uplifting as you would expect!
Gilda Felt
May 28, 2015 Gilda Felt rated it it was amazing
If you’ve ever thought about becoming a vegetarian, this book will give you the push you need. I’ve long known about the cruel and inhumane treatment given many of the animals that are our food. What I didn’t realize was why that was, and how it came to be. Most of it can be laid at the feet of one family: the Tysons.

It begins with John Tyson, a man so scarred by the Depression that he decided he needed all the money in the world. One step at a time, he took over the chicken industry, at the sam
May 23, 2014 Alyce rated it liked it
Extremely torn - I think that this an important subject; I like the author's writing style; I admire the compassion that he has for all of the parties involved (whether farmer or meat conglomerate exec); and I respect the amount of research undertaken to write this book- but I wish there were more meat here. This would have made a compelling magazine expose- but because there's not enough here to support an entire book, it's quite redundant.

And the title is misleading. If you are going to call
Miles Winston
Aug 01, 2014 Miles Winston rated it really liked it
what was most valuable for me was this book's focus on rural America. when we hear of the big meat companies in the news, it seems they are mostly being attacked from a public health perspective, e.g. their mismanagement of animal waste, overuse of antibiotics, etc. but it's equally important to get a sense of what industry consolidation has done to the rural economy and its negative outcomes for low-income rural populations. the contract farming system, the tournament method for farmer pay, and ...more
Feb 06, 2014 Cyrus rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I was already "the choir" for The Meat Racket in regards to the general overblown nature of the meat industry, but this book goes far beyond that.

This is a well-researched tale with elegant, simple prose that brings to life just how severely the uber-consolidation of an industry has affected every player in it. The historical perspective is so important here to realize just why companies like Tyson do what they do - why their mottos *must* be "expand or expire." Yes, greed is involved, but it's
Mar 28, 2014 John rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It’s sad for the chicken farmer in Arkansas, indentured to a life of low wages and a real fear of the company that pays him, Tyson Foods, which makes a profit regardless of how the farmer is doing. But this book is not only about chicken, it’s about pork and beef and reading it will tend to make you want to be a vegetarian. Tyson Foods has “chickenized” the production of meat in this country, where meat farmers are serfs to the company. But we consumers are able to get our “cheap” chicken in all ...more
Jul 31, 2014 Samuel rated it it was amazing
Many books have tackled the issue of eating meat, especially in terms of humane issues. But none have gone as deep in looking at the impact of the current meat industry on the farmers who produce it. The picture is not pretty. Leonard does a terrific job of pulling back the screen and showing how the system works. It's a gripping story, well told.
Oct 31, 2014 Jeannie rated it it was amazing
Very well researched. The scary truth about the huge corporations who control the worlds meat supply and so much more. It's disgusting to realize what we believe and what is really the truth is so widely separated. A real eye-opener that was easy to read and understand.
Nathanael Johnson
Feb 07, 2014 Nathanael Johnson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Amazing reporting. Good writing, though heavy-handed with the old-school newspaper style at times. It's always "on the ragged edge of bankruptcy."
A minor miracle in learning about a highly secretive company.
Robin Tierney
Dec 21, 2014 Robin Tierney rated it it was amazing
5 stars for fine business journalism.

Every person who lives in America and buys foods and pays taxes should read this excellent piece of investigative business journalism.

It introduces you to members (and former members) of the disappearing breed known as independent farmers (that became producers) and the tycoons that took over hatchery and meatpacking operations and transformed the competitive open-market system for selling farmed animals into an anti-competitive, super-high production contra
Jun 16, 2014 Jessica rated it it was amazing
The Meat Racket explores the modern, industrial meat industry through the lens of one of the major companies - Tyson Foods. Christopher Leonard explores the rise of the industrial chicken industry that John and Don Tyson created and how that business model shaped all other industrial meat industries. I've read a lot about this topic and was very familiar with CAFOs (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations), but had no idea that Tyson basically created the first CAFOs for chickens and the other me ...more
May 06, 2014 Peacegal rated it really liked it
The meat industry gets away with a lot. With legislators in their pockets and millions of consumers willing to look the other way, only a few other industries enjoy such a lack of scrutiny. Perhaps you’ve read books about the environmental destruction, animal cruelty, and slaughterhouse worker abuse perpetuated by Big Ag. This book isn’t about any of the above—rather, it’s about yet another little-known victim—the farmers who contract to work with Tyson and its (very few) peers.

With the rise of
Dec 21, 2014 Zahwil rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Christopher Leonard starts off the book with a clear agenda. He sets out to show that the U.S. meat business is a “racket”. He does not, in my opinion, do this very persuasively. For example, he states early on that “There is so little competition in the meat industry today that companies like Tyson can virtually raise the price at will”. It’s statements like this one, made without evidence, that serve to undermine the credibility of Leonard’s message.

The type of evidence that Leonard does give
Sep 07, 2014 Sarah rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
On the surface The Meat Racket is a book about Tyson Foods, an in-depth look at the largest meat producer/processor in the U.S. There are only four mega-corporations that control most of the U.S. meat industry. Tyson is the largest and most powerful. You may think you know whose meat you are buying at the store, but you do not and further you will likely be eating a Tyson product at countless restaurants, and institutions day in and day out. You may think 'chicken' when you hear that name, but y ...more
Oct 07, 2016 Alfred rated it it was amazing
Shelves: vegan
This is a great bio about how Tyson came to power and monopolized the meat industry. It's not specifically a vegan book but it did touched some negative aspects of animal farming. I liked the biography of the company and was able to learn some good business tips, specifically about outsourcing some of your business to independent contractors. I also got some ideas about vertical strategy to be involved and control every aspect of the production process. I didn't like how Tyson and other meat pro ...more
Mar 02, 2015 Ben rated it it was amazing
Guessing this is going to be a 2015 top 10 book for me.

An excellent, albeit infuriating, look at the economics behind America's meat system today. What makes the book particularly stand out is that it isn't focused on most of the issues that get covered elsewhere--concerns about animal health, use of antibiotics, the misapplication of the term "organic." Rather, it looks at the food system in terms of the disappearing competitive dynamics and what that means for farmers and in turn the market f
Oct 06, 2014 John rated it really liked it
In The Meat Racket, Christopher Leonard details the rise of Tyson Foods and – as a result of the influence of the business model they pioneered – the rise of large-scale industrialized meat production in the United States in the latter half of the twentieth century.

Mr. Leonard spent much of his journalistic career reporting on Tyson Foods and large-scale industrialized agriculture. He’s exceptionally well informed on the topic of modern agribusiness and this book is as well researched and as wel
Mike Moskos
Apr 13, 2014 Mike Moskos rated it really liked it
Good story and good as an audible book. This is a book primarily about Tyson and how they satisfied Americans' desire for the cheapest possible food, becoming the largest player in the meat business. I was expecting a hatchet job, but he was completely fair. It really is an amazing story. The company's figured out how to prosper from the changes in the market that wiped out so many others and dramatically lowered the costs of meat. Of course, it also means that wages in that system are much lowe ...more
Chihoe Ho
Feb 01, 2014 Chihoe Ho rated it really liked it
Where is our meat coming from? Are the people involved compensated fairly for their labour? How can I, as a consumer, make sure that I'm getting meat of the highest quality at the most competitive price? We tend to take all these for granted when we conveniently shop at the nearest supermarket or dine out. There has been a movement to source locally and support more dedicated meat businesses, but these are far and few between. While "The Meat Racket" looks closely within the US, it is a rapidly ...more
Jan 03, 2016 Adysnewbox rated it really liked it
Well, my desire to become a vegetarian has certainly grown after reading "The Meat Racket." Not all this information was terribly surprising, but it still made for a depressing and informative read. I do feel the title is somewhat misleading...the majority of the book focuses on Tyson Foods and views the rise of industrial agriculture almost entirely from the angle of one company. While the research done here was extensive (and the compassion for his interview subjects obvious), I was expecting ...more
Biblio Files
Feb 18, 2014 Biblio Files rated it really liked it
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
Nathan Wittmann
Apr 08, 2015 Nathan Wittmann rated it liked it
While the topic holds a great interest for me currently, and there are testimonials and revelations in this book that can make one tear their hair out in anger and frustration, I could not get over some of the redundancies in the text. Leonard's writing style is meant for a mass audience, and that is not a bad thing if it gets more people to read and consider the choices they have when buying cheap meat at the local supermarket, but I felt that the book could do with some heavier analytics. The ...more
Jim Kahn
Jun 11, 2014 Jim Kahn rated it really liked it
The author relates the history of Tyson foods, from the early life of the original founder through his formative years and up to the company we all know and love (to hate) today. Although the history is related in an impressively objective fashion, I believe the primary goal of the author (an investigative journalist) is to shed some light on the predatory practices of Tyson (and other big agricultural companies of that ilk) with respect to the farmers who raise the animals for their products.

Albert W Tu
Jan 07, 2015 Albert W Tu rated it liked it
Shelves: food
Christopher Leonard uses the rise of the Tyson chicken empire to show how the production of meat in America has been transformed into manufacturing process. The after effects of this include the annihilation of small farms, a kind of new serfdom for those participating in the lowest levels chicken growing, and higher prices for the consumer. Like Michael Moss in Salt Sugar Fat, Leonard often shows a grudging admiration for the acumen and sheer will of the businessmen he profiles. His position, h ...more
Mar 15, 2015 Kay rated it liked it
I read this book because Ben enjoyed it so much. He can really cover the specifics of why this is such a well-reported tome about the economics of the modern meat industrial complex, so you should read his review to get a sense of that.

I'll only add a couple of things. Though this book will undoubtedly be an eye-opening look at the agricultural industry for many people, it was less so for me. I grew up with farmers on both sides of my family. From tractor manufacturing to grain production to da
Greg Brozeit
Jul 29, 2014 Greg Brozeit rated it it was amazing
Shelves: public-policy, food
“Consumers pay more, farmers make less, and corporations in the middle grab a windfall.” (p. 204) “…the bank extended the mortgages and car loans to the lower-income workers at Tyson’s plant. It provided farm loans to the company’s chicken farmers. The plant workers never really jumped an income bracket. The farmers never really left their cycle of indebtedness. People might complain, but there really wasn’t an alternative.” (p. 317)

That pretty much sums up the story of The Meat Racket, a remark
Nov 30, 2015 Sam rated it it was amazing
This is not an animal rights book; it's a human rights book. That's important, because ever since The Jungle readers and the public have found more than enough to be disgusted about the way their meat is made. The Meat Racket continues the journalistic tradition of illuminating the significant human casualties of vertically integrated factory farming.

At heart, Christopher Leonard has written a corporate biography of Tyson Foods's tragic triumph. From its humble origins in John Tyson's truck to t
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Goodreads Librari...: Please combine: The Meat Racket 3 12 Apr 16, 2014 04:54PM  
  • The Chain: Farm, Factory, and the Fate of Our Food
  • In Meat We Trust: An Unexpected History of Carnivore America
  • Defending Beef: The Case for Sustainable Meat Production
  • American Catch: The Fight for Our Local Seafood
  • Pandora's Lunchbox: How Processed Food Took Over the American Meal
  • Free for All: Fixing School Food in America (California Studies in Food and Culture, 28)
  • The Slow Fix: Solve Problems, Work Smarter and Live Better in a World Addicted to Speed
  • The Foie Gras Wars: How a 5,000-Year-Old Delicacy Inspired the World's Fiercest Food Fight
  • What's the Economy For, Anyway?: Why It's Time to Stop Chasing Growth and Start Pursuing Happiness
  • American Wasteland: How America Throws Away Nearly Half of Its Food (and What We Can Do About It)
  • Organic: A Journalist's Quest to Discover the Truth behind Food Labeling
  • Every Twelve Seconds: Industrialized Slaughter and the Politics of Sight
  • The End of Growth
  • Slow Food Nation: Why Our Food Should Be Good, Clean, and Fair
  • Bet the Farm: How Food Stopped Being Food
  • Behind the Kitchen Door
  • Eyewitness to a Genocide: The United Nations and Rwanda
  • Lethal But Legal: Corporations, Consumption, and Protecting Public Health

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“The demands of the marketplace eventually outstripped the chicken’s physical capacity to support them. The bird’s breasts became too big for its legs and skeleton to support. The animals grew so fast they couldn’t supply oxygen to all their tissue and muscle, causing fluid to build up in their body cavity. The chicken’s immune system suffered, and some birds simply keeled over after a few weeks.” 1 likes
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