“It’s the Speed of the Chain”

Ted Genoways–the author of The Chain: Farm, Factory, and the Fate of Our Food–describes the state of the meat processing industry:

“The produce industry has always relied on seasonal, low-paid workers, but the undercutting of union labour in meat packing is a relatively new development. Ironically, at the very moment that enlightened eaters were growing obsessed by the idea of ‘slow food,’ the meat industry was becoming overwhelmingly staffed by recent immigrants – many without legal employment status – as a way of pushing production lines to go faster and faster.

“Undocumented workers, many from Mexico and other parts of Latin America, formed a perfect corporate workforce: thankful for their pay cheques, willing to endure harsh working conditions, unlikely to unionise or even complain. ‘They don’t ask for breaks. They don’t ask for raises,’ one worker at the Hormel plant in Fremont told me. ‘They just work harder and harder, because they need to work.'”