Minutiae, pages 209-273

I have very little to report here, but there are a couple of things. Unfortunately, I lost some notes I had been keeping and was too lazy to save, so it’s possible that I missed more than usual this week.

  • Pollan writes of Bev’s slaughterhouse, “But his artisanal enterprise was being forced to conform to a USDA regulatory system that is based on an industrial model—indeed, that was created in response to the industrial abuses Upton Sinclair chronicled in The Jungle….The specifications and costly technologies implicitly assume that the animals being processed have been living in filth and eating corn rather than grass” (250). I haven’t been able to find sources on this, but I’m having trouble making sense of this time frame. Specifically, the standards that were created as a response to The Jungle were the Meat Inspection Act of 1906. It’s my understanding that the use of corn to feed animals wasn’t common before the introduction of agricultural subsidies during the Depression. UPDATE (6/28/2010): Commenter Scu clarifies this.
  • On page 269, Pollan misspells the word “krill.”


  1. Scu said

    My understanding is that in the time period shortly after the civil war with the rise of Chicago slaughterhouses and the railroad, it was common to grass feed the cow till shortly before slaughter, then the cow would be taken to a feedlot, and would be fed mostly corn to fatten the cow up.

    I can try to look up my citations for it later, if you want.

    • Adam Merberg said

      Thanks for that information, Scu. I’d be interested in citations if it’s not too much trouble. As the title of the post suggests, it’s not the most important point, but I’d like to read up on the issue.

  2. Scu said

    Not a problem.

    On the early relationship between corn and beef, see Jeremy Rifkin’s Beyond Beef, particularly pp. 93-99.

    Also check out William Cronon’s Nature’s Metropolis, particularly pp. 221-224.

    Rifkin focuses on British money helping out the early packer industry in the US, and that the British preferred a fatter cut of meat than Americans at the time (hence that is when the popularity of ‘corned beef’ began). Cronon focuses on how new technologies like the barbed wire fence and the way that farmers were payed for their cows led to the rise of the feedlot. And the feedlot necessitated corn.

    • Adam Merberg said

      Great, thanks for the references. I’ve update the post to link to your comment.

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