Red Meat Republic: A Hoof-to-Table History of How Beef Changed America

Princeton University Press
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Free sample

How beef conquered America and gave rise to the modern industrial food complex

By the late nineteenth century, Americans rich and poor had come to expect high-quality fresh beef with almost every meal. Beef production in the United States had gone from small-scale, localized operations to a highly centralized industry spanning the country, with cattle bred on ranches in the rural West, slaughtered in Chicago, and consumed in the nation’s rapidly growing cities. Red Meat Republic tells the remarkable story of the violent conflict over who would reap the benefits of this new industry and who would bear its heavy costs.

Joshua Specht puts people at the heart of his story—the big cattle ranchers who helped to drive the nation’s westward expansion, the meatpackers who created a radically new kind of industrialized slaughterhouse, and the stockyard workers who were subjected to the shocking and unsanitary conditions described by Upton Sinclair in his novel The Jungle. Specht brings to life a turbulent era marked by Indian wars, Chicago labor unrest, and food riots in the streets of New York. He shows how the enduring success of the cattle-beef complex—centralized, low cost, and meatpacker dominated—was a consequence of the meatpackers’ ability to make their interests overlap with those of a hungry public, while the interests of struggling ranchers, desperate workers, and bankrupt butchers took a backseat. America—and the American table—would never be the same again.

A compelling and unfailingly enjoyable read, Red Meat Republic reveals the complex history of exploitation and innovation behind the food we consume today.

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About the author

Joshua Specht teaches American history at Monash University in Australia. He divides his time between Melbourne and South Bend, Indiana. Twitter @joshspecht
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Additional Information

Publisher
Princeton University Press
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Published on
May 7, 2019
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Pages
368
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ISBN
9780691185781
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Language
English
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Genres
History / Americas (North, Central, South, West Indies)
History / Social History
History / United States / General
Social Science / Agriculture & Food
Technology & Engineering / Agriculture / General
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Available on Android devices
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Eligible for Family Library

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Michael Pollan, the bestselling author of The Omnivore's Dilemma, Food Rules, and How to Change Your Mind, explores the previously uncharted territory of his own kitchen in Cooked. 

Cooked is now a Netflix docuseries based on the book that focuses on the four kinds of "transformations" that occur in cooking. Directed by Oscar-winning filmmaker Alex Gibney and starring Michael Pollan, Cooked teases out the links between science, culture and the flavors we love.

In Cooked, Pollan discovers the enduring power of the four classical elements—fire, water, air, and earth—to transform the stuff of nature into delicious things to eat and drink. Apprenticing himself to a succession of culinary masters, Pollan learns how to grill with fire, cook with liquid, bake bread, and ferment everything from cheese to beer.

Each section of Cooked tracks Pollan’s effort to master a single classic recipe using one of the four elements. A North Carolina barbecue pit master tutors him in the primal magic of fire; a Chez Panisse–trained cook schools him in the art of braising; a celebrated baker teaches him how air transforms grain and water into a fragrant loaf of bread; and finally, several mad-genius “fermentos” (a tribe that includes brewers, cheese makers, and all kinds of picklers) reveal how fungi and bacteria can perform the most amazing alchemies of all. The reader learns alongside Pollan, but the lessons move beyond the practical to become an investigation of how cooking involves us in a web of social and ecological relationships. Cooking, above all, connects us.

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