cover image THE MEAT YOU EAT: Corporate Farming and the Decline of the American Diet

THE MEAT YOU EAT: Corporate Farming and the Decline of the American Diet

Ken Midkiff, , foreword by Wendell Berry. . St. Martin's, $23.95 (222pp) ISBN 978-0-312-32535-0

There are probably few surprises in this exposé of American agribusiness; if you haven't read horror stories about megafarms and slaughterhouses in Fast Food Nation , you've undoubtedly heard animal rights activists talking about the deplorable conditions in which cattle, poultry and hogs are processed "from semen to cellophane." To these tales Midkiff adds an overwhelming flood of animal feces (usually referred to in much more pointed terms), from frightened cattle that soil themselves in the slaughterhouse and don't get fully cleaned to liquefied manure that seeps into the land of neighboring small farms. Using formulaic left-wing parlance, Midkiff points out how giant food corporations wield political influence to save themselves from reform—ensuring, for example, that despite their size they will continue to be classified as farmers exempt from EPA regulation. He also advocates buying from local farms that practice "sustainable agriculture" as a means of resisting corporate meat without going vegetarian. (A useful appendix offers contact information for farmer's market associations across the country.) The book doesn't quite follow through on the claim to depict "the decline of the American diet"; although it certainly reveals the contamination risks in our meat and eggs, not much is said about the direct health consequences for consumers. (Aug.)