An unbiased view of what the meat industry looks like from the inside

Most of the time, when somebody goes undercover inside a meat processing facility, it's done with the express goal of convincing other people to stop eating meat. But that wasn't what journalist Ted Conover had in mind. He was more just curious, especially given the growing trend of state laws preventing undercover infiltration of agribusiness facilities. So, using his real name and address, Conover got a job as a USDA meat inspector at a Cargill plant.

What's fascinating here is that the problems he finds have less to do with animal abuse (Maryn McKenna reports that Conover was surprised to find himself in a clean, safe, humane facility) and more to do with the abuse of antibiotics — a trend that is a major contributor to antibiotic resistance.

You can't read the full story for free, unfortunately. Such is the way of Harpers. But Maryn McKenna has a summary, Conover has a blog post on agribusiness gag laws, and you can buy access to the full story with a Harper's subscription.


  1. I read this last night in the dead tree version. It is a well written and nuanced view into something that could easily become a polemic for … Pick a side.

    Harpers is great month to month and the $30 yearly subscription including digital archive access is well worth it.

  2. There is no such thing as ‘humane’ industrial slaughter.

    Meat is murder. Period.

    We need to stop the mass consumption of animal products lest it destroy our bodies, our planet, and of course the billions upon billions of animals.

        1. Ok.

          That is all of one source. According to a
          2006 report by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization
          (FAO), our diets and, specifically, the meat in them cause more
          greenhouse gases carbon dioxide (CO2), methane, nitrous oxide, and the
          like to spew into the atmosphere than either transportation or industry.
          The FAO report found that current production levels of meat contribute
          between 14 and 22 percent of the 36 billion tons of “CO2-equivalent”
          greenhouse gases the world produces every year. It turns out that
          producing half a pound of hamburger for someone’s lunch a patty of meat
          the size of two decks of cards releases as much greenhouse gas into the
          atmosphere as driving a 3,000-pound car nearly 10 miles. — http://www.scientificamerican….

          Study claims meat creates half of all greenhouse gases

          Environmental impact of meat production

          I would say 20 – 50% would be a fair estimate, so I stand corrected.

    1. It seems Ian doesn’t know the definition of murder.  For his benefit murder is a verb involving the killing of a human being.

      Now that that’s out of the way hopefully he’ll come up with a better phrase than “Meat is murder” with which to attempt to discourage people from eating meat.

      -abs is pretty sure he himself doesn’t care, human is just another animal and after -abs finishes trying all the other species (hopefully driving one to extinction if -abs is to achieve the true orgasmic paroxysm of meat-eater’s-nirvana) he’ll strongly consider eating some, but first there are other more easily caught and eaten meats to get to

        1. What you do is put one of those KFC Double Downs in the box and when he goes in for it you hit him with this big ol’ stick.

          1. Mmmmm, a tasty KFC Double-Down?  Just sitting around?  .. . .. .


            What the hell????

            -abs will admit he hopes he’s harder to trap, but if so . . . well . . . “fair’s fair”

          2. The real trick is to let him get a few bites.  Get real comfortable in there.  When he stops moving his eyes all around and sits back on the haunches, that’s how you know.

      1. I’m pretty sure Ian didn’t come up with “Meat is Murder” and the point is that life is life. You can’t make it – you aught not take it.

        I’m not sure what that last paragraph is all about though.

          1. I put my disc in my xBox and had a great time – but I don’t claim to know how to make a video game.

          2.  A whole lot of self-aggrandization involved, but Mycoplasma laboratorium is a step towards understanding what “life” is.

      1. Simple murder is too good for plants.  I enjoy breakfast made from thousands of tiny offspring that have been pulverized, allowed to rot slightly, heated in a furnace, cut into slabs, slightly burned on the outside and coated in butter.

    2. Can I start by eating you instead? You know that your statements are likely to make people ignore your message, right? They’re just so pejorative. No one has to listen to you so if you sweep into a conversation to make your point by vilifying the people you’re supposed to be convincing then don’t be surprised if people tell you where to stick it.

      Meat is tasty. Period. Humans are animals. Animals eat meat. The fact that our bodies evolved out the appendix shows that we evolved away from eating primarily leaf matter long ago.

      Fucking murderous kittens… DEVIL SPAWN!

  3. It seems that making the investigation about objectivity without an emotional agenda to shame meat eaters revealed a concrete health concern. Kudos to this  journalist.

  4. Given that we’ve have evidence in the field since at least 1946(!) of antibiotic resistance, that we still routinely give them to livestock as part of their feed is unbelievably short sighted and stupid.

  5. It occurs to me that they should take this guys Meat Paycheque and  use it to open the paywall up for this story. I assume he collected a regular cheque from the paper.

  6. The tough thing about being bovine
    is you taste rather nice with red wine
    All ground up to chuck
    In a round little puck
    in a bun, with some salad, how divine!

    And yes, I agree, the antibiotics thing sucks big time.  As does industrial farming.

  7. Antibiotics – not allowed to put them in the feed if it’s labelled organic. So, they put in the water. 

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