Great Plains Studies, Center for


Date of this Version

Fall 2012


Great Plains Research, Volume 22, Number 2, Fall 2012, pp. 215-216.


© Copyright 2012 by the Center for Great Plains Studies, University of Nebraska-Lincoln


In June 2004, political scientist Timothy Pachirat went to work on the killfloor of an unnamed beef slaughterhouse in Omaha, Nebraska. He started out as a "liver hanger" in the cooler. There carcasses hang before being sent to the fabrication floor where "hundreds of handheld knives and saws reinvent chilled half-carcasses as steaks, rounds, and roasts that are then boxed and shipped to distributors and retailers around the world." For four days he worked in the chutes, driving cattle to the knocking box to be stunned, as required by the Humane Slaughter Act, before being turned into meat. Then for three months he was in QC (quality control), which afforded him access to the entire kill floor. In December, when asked by a USDA inspector to blow the whistle on food safety violations, he explained that he was actually an undercover ethnographer. The next day Pachirat quit his job, but stayed in Omaha for another 18 months "conducting, on a much less grueling schedule, participant-observation research and interviews with community and union organizers, slaughterhouse workers, USDA inspectors, cattle ranchers, and small-slaughterhouse operators." Sadly, this later research does not appear in his account.