The Dangerous Transformation of America’s Favorite Food
July 24, 2007
208 pages, 5 1/2 x 8 1/4
10 b/w illus.
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Anthropologist Steve Striffler begins this book in a poultry processing plant, drawing on his own experiences there as a worker. He also reports on the way chickens are raised today and how they are consumed. What he discovers about America’s favorite meat is not just unpleasant but a powerful indictment of our industrial food system. The process of bringing chicken to our dinner tables is unhealthy for all concerned—from farmer to factory worker to consumer.
The book traces the development of the poultry industry since the Second World War, analyzing the impact of such changes as the destruction of the family farm, the processing of chicken into nuggets and patties, and the changing makeup of the industrial labor force. The author describes the lives of immigrant workers and their reception in the small towns where they live. The conclusion is clear: there has to be a better way. Striffler proposes radical but practical change, a plan that promises more humane treatment of chickens, better food for the consumer, and fair payment for food workers and farmers.
Steve Striffler is associate professor of anthropology, University of Arkansas.
“A gripping and deeply sobering view of ‘big chicken’ from the bottom up. Striffler’s experience on the (dis)assembly line, his sympathetic grasp of the hopes, dreams, and origins of the workforce, and of the larger history of the industry, make for a uniquely powerful and memorable book.”—James C. Scott, Yale University
particular, is a model of modern-day ethnography."—Leon Fink, editor of Labor: Working-Class History of the Americas
"Extraordinarily powerful. . . . This book will do for chicken what Fast Food Nation did for beef." — Marion Nestle, author of Food Politics: How the Food Industry Influences Nutrition and Health
"The work [Striffler] did [in a chicken processing plant] gives his book an amazing and courageous peek inside the plant, the sort of place that is usually off limits to the media. . . . Striffler clearly takes sides in the book, but the righteous indignation and polemics don’t overpower the scholar’s comprehensive approach to the topic. His insight goes beyond the problems of chicken."—Scott Carlson, Baltimore City Paper
"Striffler is a gutsy academic willing to dirty his hands, an academic who . . . writes well. . . . Chicken ought to become a touchstone. . . . The information-gathering is superb. . . . Striffler tells a gripping story."—Steve Weinberg, Des Moines Register
“Like Fast Food Nation, Chicken will drop more than a few jaws with its descriptions, facts, and figures. That’s all the better. I hope that this smart book will be passed from hand to hand, so that consumers will challenge the status quo and so that activists, environmentalists, labor rights organizers, and others will recognize how closely their issues are linked.”—Joel Stonington, Orion
"[A] superbly researched and gripping book. . . . Striffler is a gutsy academic who is not afraid to get his hands dirty."—Steve Weinberg, Orlando Sentinel
“[A] fast-paced narrative, rich with personal detail.”—Publishers Weekly
"A very readable indictment of today's poultry industry, with hopeful pointers toward the humane and healthy chicken-of-the-future."—Future Survey