When Upton Sinclair wrote The Jungle a hundred years ago, his damning exposé of living and working conditions in Chicago's packinghouse district aimed for the heart of the American people. He acknowledged, though, that he hit them instead in their stomachs, and within six months of the book's publication, meat inspection was introduced to assure consumers that their meat was safe to eat. Today, meatpacking remains a hazardous industry, with some of the highest injury rates among manufacturers, and it still depends on an immigrant labor force, just as it did in Sinclair's day. But packinghouses have fled Midwestern urban cores for small towns on the High Plains, bringing with them a host of challenges. This article documents the human costs paid by those who produce our meat as well as the costs on the communities where these plants are located.

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