It seems that I've come across a few articles written by journalists who have gone undercover into the rendering plants of modern agri-business. In a word: yuck.
In a recent article in the Utne Reader, Steve Stiffler goes undercover in an Arkansas chicken processing plant. Here's a great pull quote:
Alejandro, more seriously, says to me: "Outside, you're a gringo. You are from here. Outside, we are Mexicans, but it is different. We're still screwed, but in a different way. We are foreigners. We don't belong. At least here in the plant we belong even if we are exploited. Outside, we live better than in Mexico, but we do not belong, we are not from here and keep to ourselves."
I then ask: "And in Mexico? Who are we in Mexico?"
Roberta says to me: "In Mexico, you are a gringo. You are a foreigner, but not like we are here in Arkansas. You are more like a tourist, treated well. We are not tourists here. We are treated more like outsiders. In Mexico, we are normal people, Mexicans, just like everyone else. But in Mexico there is no future. My children were all born here, they are Americans. They have a future. Now, when I return to Mexico I feel like a tourist. I have money, travel, visit people. Our future is here now."
Alejandro ends on a light note: "At least in Mexico the chicken has some fucking taste."
NOTE: the provided link is for Utne's abstact. For those with academic affiliations, Utne is available through Proquest's Research Library (formerly PA Research II).
Susan Bourette provided another brilliant agri expose. This one is about the pork industry:
We stare at the blank faces of the men who thrust in and out of the hogs' bellies with knives, yanking out glistening tubes of red and grey entrails, bowels, hearts and livers that will eventually be chopped, packaged and shipped off for the dinner table.
"We'd harvest the farts if we could," Mike offers with a certain morbid glee. "Yup. We use just about everything. Only 3% of the pig goes to waste around here.''
My tongue suddenly feels like it's caked with the stench of sweat and scared animals. My head begins to swing like a seesaw.
"Don't you dare puke,'' Mike snorts, grabbing at my helmet to take note of my name, displayed there in bold lettering. "Suck it up, Princess.''
I'm praying for a miracle. That I won't toss my cookies. Or worse, be tossed out tush over teakettle my first day on the job. "It's the smell,'' I respond weakly. And then with all the moxie I can muster: "I'll get used to it.''
With that, Mike cocks his head and inhales deeply before he begins a spiel he's surely mouthed dozens of times before. "You know what that smell is?'' he growls rhetorically. "That,'' he says, leaning in for emphasis, "that's the smell of money.''
Although originally published in the Globe and Mail's Report on Business Magazine it has been reposted at The New Farm.