Great Plains Studies, Center for


Date of this Version



Published in Great Plains Research, Vol. 18, No.1, 2008. © 2008 Center for Great Plains Studies, University of Nebraska-Lincoln


Wilson J. Warren provides important answers to that complex question. In this study, he traces the transformation of the red meat industry across the Midwest from the terminal stockyards in Chicago, Kansas City, and Omaha to plants near small towns, particularly in the Great Plains, where cattle and hogs arrive via trucks rather than railroad cars. Warren emphasizes the packers' shift from buying through commission men at terminal markets to direct buying from farmers at plants located close to feed, water, and cheap labor. He also discusses the technical and marketing innovations that substantially changed the meatpacking industry, beginning about 1960, particularly with the introduction of electric knives and the shipment of precut and boxed meat directly to retailers. In addition, Warren traces ethnic change among meatpacking workers from first and second generation East Europeans in the major cities to whites, African Americans, Southeast Asians, and Latino workers in rural areas. And he provides an informative ethical discussion about killing animals for meat and the manner in which cattle and hogs are slaughtered (or not) before reaching the butchers' knives.