Academics, journalists, and food activists seem to agree that to appreciate the environmental implications of ranching, we can begin by looking at farm-to-table connections. In Red Meat Republic, Joshua Specht makes these linkages all the more apparent. The book brings to the fore “the institutions and practices keeping beef on the dinner table”—the “cattle-beef complex” (4)—at the inception of meatpacking in the United States. It demonstrates how the industry evolved in tandem with federal institutions and was at the center of US capitalism in the late nineteenth century. Furthermore, the work injects fresh perspectives into a topic whose historiography is enormous and is at the center of several current controversies. Consider, for example, public health concerns associated with excessive red meat intake or the rise of plant-based startups seeking to overhaul meat-eating habits.

Moving cattle from raising grounds to fattening areas to processing plants and, later, distributing industrial...

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