tv Book Discussion on The Chain CSPAN December 14, 2014 6:15pm-7:46pm EST
administration. that wasn't going to happen. the house of representatives had 515 days in counting on the senate bill and refused to bring it up. most advocate inside the house of representatives, including republicans, will tell you there is a majority in the house to pass the senate bill, which i why the speaker won't bring it to the floor in that sense, by the president acting, the political wind for democrats huge, because latinos are going to coalesce behind democrats more enthuse particularly than they have so far, and latino turnout was down in 2014. this will be a big political boon for whoever succeeds obama at the top of the ticket in 2016. >> host: do you newfoundland the frustration that some people feel, though, with all the sudden allowing -- making an executive order with regard to immigration instead of having got through the congress? >> guest: i would say i do and i don't. i say that some of the frustration is manufactured
because they're being told that the president is acting unconstitutionally, which is nonsense, the president is breaking the law, which is nonsense. if that was the case, ronald reagan brock the law, george h.w. bush broke the law. but they should vent their frustration at the house of representatives, who not only have not voted on the senate bill but have not offered a bill of their own. the president said degreed a lival in nevada, pass a bill. the runs have it within their ability to pass a piece of legislation at any time. the other reason i sort of reject the frustration is that we have to remember what it is that undocumented immigrants do in the united states. they pick the crops, they process the meat, they roof the houses, they do the ugly, nasty, painful, unpleasant jobs, that very few americans have shown a willingness to apply for. every time one of our listeners today eats a strawberry or a piece of chicken, their life has
been subsidized by the labor of those undocumented workers. so, if you really want to deal with the frustration, then we need to have an environment where we're not exploiting people for low-income labor. >> host: gary segura, the co-author of this book: latino america. how america's most -- he also teaches at stanford. thank you for you time. >> ted genoways talks about the state of the american meat-packing industry next on booktv to tell the story he took a look at hormel and its
product, spam. >> hi, everybody, good afternoon. holmel it. >> in 20 minutes nobody is going to have an appetite and that is for sure. and you'll see the wisdom of sticking with chips anded so damp. we're going to lose our appetites for a good cause. i'm chris leonard, a family foundation fellow here at new america and an author of the meat react, the secret takeover of the american food business. the story of how a few companies took control of our meat industry, and as a journalist who has written about the meat business for a long time i'm really excited to have our guest here today. ted generalaways, awe -- genoways. ted has done a number of really
important and revelatory articles about the meat industry that have been published in outlets such as bloomberg business week, an earth news, harpers, others. ted has been on the beat in the midwest, and breaking news, culminated in his new book: the chain, farm, factory, and the future of our food. it had a lot in here that surprised me and we'll get through it. but i want to say it wasn't until after we set up this event i discovered ted is a pretty big deal outside of the journalism circles i run in. he was editor of the virginia quarterly review from 2003 until 2012 at a time when that magazine really exploded in terms of size and influence. won six national magazine awards, including the award for general excellence, an incredible track record. ted is also a celebrated poet. his work has appeared in several
volumes of poetry. and his most recent book, kind of amazingly, is a biography of the poet walt whitman during the early years of the civil war war, and then shifted to the meat packing industry. and wrote the chain. so thank you for being here, ted. we really appreciate it. >> thank you for having me. thank you all for coming. >> there was a lot in this book that surprised me. we'll walk through it awe. you follow the chain from beginning to end. >> your book penile a book called hormel. it's like a canary in a coal mine for this new method of meat production that really affects anybody who eats meat and could
become the new norm down the road. and so we'll talk about that. but i also felt like your book was a really a book about the industry during an economic downturn and i hadn't really seen that before. what's going on out there in these meatpacking towns over the last four years so we'll walk through this, unpack it all. i really kind of want to start at the beginning and ask, as we said here, you're a poet, a guggenheim fellow. what's a nice guy like you writing about stuff like this? why from whitman to hormel? >> guest: well, probably the easiest answer to that question is that my grandfather worked in the swift packing house in omaha during the depression, around the union stockyards, that were then the center of omaha's
meatpacking industry. so i grew up with stories of what things have been like for him when he was working there. but the other part of it -- and this really informed the approach that i took -- was that once he had worked in the plants for a while and couldn't do that work anymore, he went to western, nebraska, where he made a go as a farmer. and he was able to keep his family afloat but he was never really able to get ahead, and those things were always connected in my mind. the ways in which the systems he had tried to escape when he left the packing plants, were connected to the same problems he uncounterred when he went over to the supply side as a farmer. so, it doesn't seem strange to
me. this is what i grew up with. hi first book of poems was almost entire i aboutly -- entirely about that dual subject as well. really this book grew out of discovering that the things i had grown up thinking were a product of the depression and a much earlier era, were still very much going on in the middle of the country. >> host: that's what really was shocking to me, is how much the meat industry today is starting to resemble the meat industry of even 100 years ago. we are all familiar with this book, the jungle, by upton sinclair, which shows horrific conditions in slaughterhouses in terms of workers being injured in terms of the safety of the food. i'll be hospital, i was working from the assumption we have gone
past that. we have the food safety inspection regime, we have osha to protect worker safety, and i thought they slaughterhouse today was different from slaughter house of yesteryear. let's talk about the company, hormel, at the center of your book. talk about -- we all know that most important invention over the last 50 years have been antibiotics, the ipad and spam. the tins meat, which came from hormel. where did this company come from and how did it become as big as it is today? >> guest: hormel was founded in austin, minnesota, founded by george a. hormel, it's worth noting right off the bat that the family still pronounces the name hormel. it's a german name, not a french name, as the company was sort of rebrandded in the '70s at a time when americans were
discovering french cuisine. but george a. hormel founded the company and really founded it originally as just a small business where he was processing a few hogs in a week and supplying the local market in austin. but interestingly, right from the beginning, the company sort of had a way of taking advantage of economic downturns. when there was a major economic downturn in 1893, that had to do with overbuilding of railroads, hormel recognize it this was an opportunity because it meant that there were going to be lower prices for shipping, and so he could not only bring in hogs from farther away but could take advantage of the refrigerator cars that were
recently developed, and as his competitors focused on that refrigerated meat, he said, well, i think there's also a market there for people who can't afford that meat in smoked meats and eventually in canned meats. but that economic downturn interesting to me -- gorge came up with the idea of taking the backing, instead of the pork bellies, and selling that as canadian bacon. which is where that comes from. >> host: we have a lot to be grateful for. >> guest: absolutely. so, it was -- but his son, jay hormel, was the one who looked at that as a kind of model when the depression came around, for finding ways to take what has been treated as waste product and find a way to market it and improve your profit margins at a
spam. up until that point that had not been the case. the other thing that is interesting is that was the moment that their campaign started emphasizing spam as an alternative to what they called messy ground beef. and the message, of course, is that ground beef was not -- didn't just make a mess but that there was hazards there, and the sales of spam skyrocketed, climbed 20% in a couple of years. and with that incredible new market, spam started -- hormel started shopping around for ways that they could increase production. now, certainly the easiest way continue crease production is to do more building, to hire more people, that sort of thing. but the cheap is way to do that is simply to increase the output with the existing plants you
have. and so what they were looking for was something that would allow them to increase the speed of production within the plants. and very soon they got exactly that they wanted in the form of a pilot program that was instituted by the usda that was testing out reduced inspections within packing plants. and it's important for a couple of reasons. the first is that when you reduce inspections, you're able to increase the speed of production as sort of a natural outcome of that. up until that point, really the speed of inspectors is what set the speed of production. you could only run the line as fast as an inspector could physically inspect each carcass. with the new model they said we're going to do
microbiological testing that will allow us to be much more accurate, not going to be what they derided starting at that point as poke and sniff, the old method of manual inspection. this is going to be high-tech, this is going to be scientific. but what gets left out of that discussion is that what they're really doing i handing over most of the inspection to the companies themselves in the pilot program and doing spot checking. so, yes, there's microbiological testing but it's carried out by fewer inspectors, which means the line is able to go much faster. and what you end up with now is a situation where the five plants that were allowed to be part of the test group, are running their lines 20% faster
than any other packing plants in the country. and hormel becomes the case study because two of the pain plants were in the group of five and then they bought one of the other three. so, the three main cut and kill operations that hormel use for all of their supply are part of that test group. so what we see here is that the usda has pilot program to try out a new form of safety inspection, a new kind of safety net around the meat we eat, and it's going to incorporate ramping up line speeds, ramping up the speed of production, and then shifting how you're testing that meat. instead of having the usda inspector -- it's a crazy site. standing alongside a conveyor belt with animal car kansass hissing by trying to spot problems. they're going to shift to that for test aring for microbial
pathogens and it's amazing hormel is right in the middle of this experiment. you look at hormel and you're going to see the impact of this kind of experiment. and let me say quickly, ramping up line speeds is the holy grail of meat companies. i remember one time in missouri, i was at a tyson foods plant, talking with the plant manager, and i'm sitting in his office and we're chatting, and behind him his computer goes into sleep mode and we see his screen save and it's this one sentence go by saying run d-bone at full speed. it's the line where they're cutting apart chicken carcasses. that's what this guy's mantra. that's what the industry wants more than anything because you have this giant expensive slaughterhouse and you can run more products through the and boost your profit margins. that's is what they want. let's talk about what life looks spike -- looks like inseed
inside one of this plants. more workers along the line -- >> guest: some more workers. that's the question here. is that if you look at what is happened in the hormel plant in fremont, nebraska, and the quality pork processors plant in austin, minnesota, which is the subsidiary that exists inside of the fence of hormel. what you see is their line speeds have increased by about 50%. at the same time, yes, there are jobs add but the number of workers add at the plants is somewhere between 10% and 15%. so, and some of this, yes, is picked up by adding more automated processes and that
sort of thing but there's no denying that everybody who is working inside the plant is working faster and one of the people who actually was in charge of implementing the reduced inspection mod tell fremont plant, told me they would have weekly meetings where the new line speed was announced, and that there was always a great deal of anxiety going into they meetings because everybody knew that the line speed only goes in one direction. the intention is always to make it faster and faster and faster, and so as the new speed is announced, you're aware that you're working faster and working harder, and to me that is where this becomes much more of a -- than just a story about the meat packing industry. it's really a story about the american recession and the american recovery. because, yes, we can say that the company has added jobs since
the economic downturn, and that seems like a positive indication. but the reality is that they've increased output by 50%, while only increasing staffing by 10% to 15%, which means everybody is working harder at the bottom, and everybody is seeing greater gains at the top. and remembers that the upper management, their income is determined by how the stock prices are doing, and a company like hormel, the prices are soaring, stock prices are going up. everybody is advising his is a recession-proof company, that will make profits at times like this. so the upper management is making money hand over fist while the people at the bottom have not seen real pay wages for decades. >> host: talk about what life is like for these workers, and you were right there you interviewed a lot of folks working on the
line. let's talk raw numbers here for a second. he line speed went from -- 950 hogs an hour? >> guest: right. >> host: up to a thousand hogs an hour, which is something like 15 hogs a minute going by. we're talking tough, manual labor to do these cuts e.r.a. pettive motions, and you say the line speeds were even reaching 1300 hogs an hour. >> guest: yes. so, at the point where this all began, with the reduced inspection model, they were running in most of hormel plants hundred hogs an hour, at some point up to 1350 hogs an hour, 505% increase. even now, depending on the supply and some of the -- what has happened recently with the viruses that have gone through hogs and affected hog supplies, that the speed of the line has been adjusted, but at peak times
it's still running at over 1300 hogs an hour. and so that is really the intention is to try to move the line just that much faster. and as much of an increase as that is, i've been amazed talking to the people who worked at hormel for decades who can remember when they were processing fewer than 500 hogs an hour. and so the increase in speed is just kind of hard to fathom. >> host: it is. it is. and you uncover some unexpected affects. tragically you point out, if somebody works at plant like this for five years, there's a 505 chance they'll be injured and that could be -- you interview a woman who lost a finger, injuries like that. this is where everybody is going to lose their appetite. we're 20 minutes in just as i
said. let's talk about the brain machine. is that what you call it? you uncovered that when you ramp up line speeds like this you have some unexpected affects and consequences. what happens at the brain machine? >> guest: so, chris has already warned you, gird yourself a little bit. there's a section of the production line that is called the head table. which is where the heads of the hogs are processed. that's where the ears are removed, the snouts, the cheek meat is removed, the tongues removed, they even scrape the pallet meat out. that sort of thing. and some of this is done with straight knives, some with what are called wizard knives, which are these power knives that are circular blades, and so
everything is moving very fast, and also everything in that area is -- those wizards are powered by a new pneumatic system so there's a lot of air from at the end of the head table, the very last spot is where the denuded skull winds up, and at the time that -- where the book is set at the beginning, hormel was harvesting the brains from the hogs and selling them into the korean market as thickener for stir-fry. and the way that they collected them at the plant in austin, at the qpp plant there, was by inserting a brass nozzle into the opening at the back of the skull where the supreme column would -- the spinal column would go and there was a pig on the nozzle that would trigger
automatically and release a blast of pressurized air which was enough to liquefy the brained inside, which would then be poured into a catch bucket and the skull was then dropped down a chute, where the bones were taken and rendered-or ground for bone meal. but what they discovered was happening was that just enough of the brain matter was being blasted by this air that it would -- the workers were inhaling the brain matter. and because of the air current through the plant, it was not just affecting the person who ran the brain machine but drifting down the head table and actually drifting in other directions as well so the century advisories who regularly came through -- the supervisors who came through the area were affected, and they didn't know
what was happening really until first worker started complaining about extreme pain in their extremities. hands and feet, and then people actually collapsing on the plant floor. and what they eventually figured out, first, the mayo clinic was involved and then the minnesota department of health. was that as they inhaled the brain matter, triggered an autoimmune response, and the workers bodies were not only killing the neural tissue they had inhaled from the pigs but then their bodies started attacking their own neural tissue. started with the sheaths that protect the nerves, the long nerves that run to the extremities and that's causing the hand and feet pain. but in the more extreme cases, especially the people who actually ran the brain station,
there were people who had permanent spinal damage and even brain damage from doing this. >> host: there are more and more -- the brain machines running at full speed so more and more of this aerosolized brain in the atmosphere so they're breathing in a lot more than they used to. i think what really bothered me about this passage in the book, which really -- the story runs through the whole book -- is that these employees are discovering it -- i don't want to say they're guinea pigs in a lab but they're discovering it by accident. they're being challenged in the authenticity of what they're saying. some of these people suffered permanent nerve damage from this. >> guest: yes. and as you say, i don't by any means think that this is something that could have been foreseen in its particulars. but the reaction to it, the initial reaction, is sort of denial that there's anything
going on. there was a lot of active effort to separate the workers so that they didn't -- most of them didn't know that anyone else in the plant had been affected until they started seeing each other at the doctor's office. and the way that it was actually eventually pieced together was by a translator and a driver who did translation for the medical center, and they had been translating the same symptoms to doctors from enough people that they started to realize there was something going on. accomplish so -- then once there was concern from -- from the mayo clinic and then the department of health, there was this public reaction of saying we're going to do everything we can. we want to take care of our workers. but behind the scenes, qpp is a
company was engaged in a squabble with aig over who would have to pay nor medical bill -- pay for the medical bills and denying worker comp claims, and eventually there were a flub of the workers who were called in -- a number of the workers who were called in and their immigration status was questioned. almost all of the workers faked were undocumented workers, and a number of them, fearing they were facing deportation, simply fled. and so many of them -- even the people that i interviewed for the book, many of them are simply gone, and because they were working under false identities in the first place, it's not a matter of tracking them down someplace else. wherever they are, they're almost certainly still suffering from these symptoms, but they're
someplace where they have no way to get medical assistance. >> host: wow. and we're going to save the talk about undocumented workers for a little bit later. it was infuriating to read those passages about these folks trying to get basic worker comp coverage for these terrible injuries they didn't get. i'd like to talk a little bit about the safety inspection element of this and whether or not the food we're eating from the plant is safe. there's a great line from the jungle that you quote where upto be sinclair was -- he is interview a food safety inspector and didn't want to pound out there were dozens of car kazs that were not inspected. >> guest: the inspector was happy to step away from the line and talk to him while the line was still running. >> host: yes, so you point out the usda itself did a large survey, study, of these plants.
no ig report. the results were not encouraging. tell us a little about bit what this long-term study showed about the efficacy of the hemp plant. >> guest: the oig report, the office of the inspector general's report, looked at the food safety records for the five plants that were brought into the program, and the meanyardstick that was used is what the industry refers to as nrs, noncompliance records. so, places where there's been some sort of a food safety violation. what the oig report found was that of the five plants that are part of the hemp program for
pork, that three of them are among the ten worst food safety violators in the country, click the plant that is the worst, and the obvious questions that the report raises is, if this is supposed to be a pilot program, testing a new model of inspections, why would we possibly say we've run this for over a decade, the food safety implications seem to be terrible all by themselves, not even looking at the impact on the workers in the plants but just looking at food safety, why would we make this the model for all of the pork packing plants in the country? but talking to people within the usda, my sense is that is exactly where the momentum is headed.
>> host: that hemp will be expanded, instead of massive amounts of violations. this is a disconnect i just don't understand. >> guest: i don't, either. i don't have the good explanation for this because the only thing i can say is that i understand perfectly well how this benefits the packers. but i don't understand how it benefits anyone else. >> host: let's point out here that hemp is not likely to be just constrained to the pork industry. the big poultry companies are pushing -- correct me -- they're pushing the same rule to speed up line speeds, change the inspection regime, they face tremendous blowback from that over the last year, and they've kind got this hybrid where they'll change the inspection, not speed up the line, but you pointed out there's language in there that might let them speed up the line --
>> guest: there's wiggle room in the language of what has been negotiated, and i think even this sort of compromise position that -- on the poultry rule that the industry is not fully happy with, i think it's still clear that things are headed in the direction of benefiting the industry. >> host: wow. i was talking to a usda economist a couple week others and he said it's much more like a trade association than a regulator. i think this drives that point home pretty well. unfortunately -- i want to move on because there's so much to cover in this book, and just for a few minutes here i whatnot to touch on farming, and what this kind of system has done to farms as we think about them. and you have a lot of really powerful, powerful stuff in here from farms. let's start quickly with the environment impact. you profile this farm, new
fashion farm -- >> guest: new fashion pork. >> host: the number of pigs that this facility raise is incredible. >> guest: thousands of hogs in a single barn, and a standard size breed barn for some of the larger producers are 6,000 sows or piglets on top of that. new fashion has interestingly settled on a size that is about 2200 hogs, and it's chosen for a very specific reason. in order to face environmental review within the state of iowa, you have to have a facility that is over 1,000 animals, right? except it's not actually animals. it's livestock units. which is calculated by what percentage of a cow the animal
is. and the calculation is that a hog is .4 cows, and, therefore, 2200 hogs is just under a thousand animal units, and you can build a barn that is that size without facing the environmental review. >> host: you point out, environmentally -- okay, even though they're not a full company, pigs are big animals and the waste they produce, when highly concentrated, is a serious pea lute tenant. hog fertilizer used to be terrific but in high concentrations it's terrible and it has completely overwhelmed the public infrastructure for cleaning the water that's running off these farms, for example. >> guest: absolutely. and i talked to the people at the des moines water works, both the largest of the water treatment facilities in iowa, and they have monitoring
stations that are positioned upriver at 40 different points along the rivers they're drawing from, the des moines and the river water sheds and they can see what happens, and when they get a heavy rain they can see the nitrate levels, the coli levels spike, and they know they have to bring equipment to remove some of those contaminants online, and some cases bring online emergency water reserves so they can dilute and get down below certain levels to be in compliance with the clean water act. but they said that the contaminant levels are now so high, sometimes especially in the spring after there's a lot of manure that's been injected in the fields, that it is difficult to -- even with everything they have the place to get below the ten milligrams
per liters that they're required especially on nitrates. because what is coming in is often three and four times the allowable levels under the clean water act. the industry, ag and the pork producers at large, respond that this is coming from human sources. the absurdity of that doesn't really take hold until you go and visit some of the places that we're talking about. a place like green county, or jefferson county, in iowa, you're talking about places that have fewer than 10,000 people in them. and spread across an entire county, that has hundreds of thousands of hogs. there's also the fact that hogs produce somewhere in the ballpark of eight times as much
waste as a human does. so, the people at the des moines waterworks said to me, when you have 22 million hogs in the state producing eight times as much waste as a human does, do you think that is the point source or do you think it's the three million humans across the state? and that doesn't even take into account the feed lots, the chicken barns, those sorts of things. so to say this is a nonagricultural source, to me just seems absurd. >> host: how do you know? >> guest: well, exactly. that's a key point because there's a very simple test that will tell you if this is coupling from humans or animals. i love this. it's a caffeine test. because just about every human is taking in caffeine, and they don't feed caffeine to hogs. >> host: okay. >> host: not yet. >> guest: right.
but you can do a caffeine test but when i talk to the microbiologists at the des moines waterworks he said we wanted to do this test so we could identify the source, and know exactly what we're dealing with, but they got lots of pushback from state government. >> host: wow. we have to move forward here a little bit, too to talk about the animals themselves. you have some incredible reporting in here about some of these undercover camera operations of animal activists -- you interview one who goes on to an operation like this, really got some explosive video that changed the conversation around this whole topic. i've taken a lot of heat for my generally unsympathetic comments about the chicken as an animal. i just don't think a lot about the chicken, and i guess there's this whole body of evidence that shows they can do math and stuff like this. so i'm still not impressed, frankly.
but hogs really are a different matter to me, honestly. these animals are very intelligent, they're very sense sent. you can look into their eyes and see a consciousness, and they're raised now in the same kind of factory model that chickens have been for decades. i just actually kind of want to start this part by asking you a question that i have not been able to answer. do you think there is a way to morally and ethically properly raise hogs on an industrial scale to the level that could support the kind of plant we have in fremont, nebraska? >> guest: i don't know about on an industrial scale. i know lots of small-scale farmers, hog farmers, who continue to raise their hogs more traditionally, and i think that that seems perfectly
sustainable, as it was for a very long time in this country. >> host: up until the '80s. not talking -- >> guest: exactly. exactly. this is not nostalgia for the 19th century. we're talking about the way things were done a generation ago. but there was a farmer in nebraska who said to me, not long ago, that what he saw as the difference of philosophy was that the larger industry is aiming at global market. they're trying to be able to take over and feed the whole world. where he said that his objective was to be able to feed his neighbors. now, if you're going to take that strategy, though, what that means is that you need, as you know, a lot less farm consolidation, you need more farmers. you need more people engaged in farming. and that's just not the direction that things are currently going. and it's not the way that any of
the economic incentives are set. so, if we were to try to meet the current demand while raising hogs with dirt under their feet and the sun on heir backs, we would need a lot more hog farms and a lot more hog farmers. and for that to be possible, means big changes that are really going to have to be top-down. this isn't something that is about tweaking the current system. it would be something as radical as the change we saw in the '8sod when the son sol addition really took -- consolidation took hold. >> host: right now we're at this very consensus status quo where we're not moving in that direction you just described. but instead we have an industry that is intend on doing things
they way they're doing and yet consumers are troubled by it. in the middle you have folks you interviewed who are activists who think foils should be treated differently, and they're going in with hidden cameras under these hog farms, and if you know -- it's a consensus situation. hog farmers are some of the nicest people you can meet in your life and they're feeling embattled right now. the response of policymakers has been to outlaw videotaping. so we have these laws. tell us what an ag gag law is. ...
to deny employment on the basis. so now if you pull up a job application for any of these at the very least you are likely to see the question have you ever been a member of the humane society of the united states. but in a more extreme instances, you may see questions such as are you intending during the course of your implements to record what you see in any way the video documentation, written documentation and any of these sort of things and if you answer yes, they can unite an appointment on that basis and if you answer no, then you have lied on a job application. and if you are guilty of filing a false document. so the situation as it stands is
quite complex in a place like iowa. there are more extreme versions that exist like this and other parts of the country. and my hope is that eventually the courts will courts while the supreme court will take up this issue because of the different versions that have proliferated in the most extreme cases, you know, there was the one person who was arrested individually not charged but arrested in utah for shooting from a crime that was occurring and the police came out and took her away. >> i think we have to switch at this point back to the people even though there's a lot we can talk about so again, you really cover the system from the beginning to the end. >> i talked earlier about the effects of the recession. the industry as we know it i
think was born in the 1990s of the kind of general economic growth and everybody in the midwest, i wouldn't even call it an open secret is just a given truth that the companies like formality and tyson were built on slaughterhouses, not the vast majority to be great to be able to undocumented workers because they decided not to enforce our federal immigration law during that time. it's just a fact. it was a wink and a nod. when i was a reporter in arkansas i was struck by how harmonious the situation was. you would see towns that went from 5%, life is okay. i didn't see any kind of tension. i felt like the new populations were welcomed and i was surprised how harmonious the situation was. >> you paint a very different picture of what life was like in
fremont nebraska in 2008 when things started to go bad and i think that exposed this industry in rural america. so, talk little bit about this sort of campaign that started up in fremont nebraska. >> that whole movement in my mind starts in two places. the first is that in 2006 it's what is known as the rates that occurred in the packing plants where there were immigration customs enforcement that showed up at the doors of to hold everyone of the hall to everyone away and homeland security buses and then there was a similar raid at the processors in iowa and this gave immigrations and
customs a black eye because what they succeeded in doing was not just rounding up these undocumented workers put in but in a number of cases especially where you had two parents working in the same plant, they rounded up people that have children that were in school and the time who suddenly had no parents and had no idea how to contact them and in many cases were born in the usa and therefore legal citizens. so, there was a decision to change that strategy guide immigration customs and not do that sort of thing. but for the people who were hard-liners on immigration, that is something everybody wanted to see in their town. so, people who were really ruthless in their approach to
the immigration enforcement, they said why do i have have plans on the edge of town and they are not showing up in holland everybody away. and when you combine that as you say with the economic hard times that we are starting to fall especially on these towns that starts to also get wrapped up in this sense of stolen jobs in involve the sorts of things. and so, in a town like fremont, but conditions are sort of right and i think that it's also a factor of the geography of a number of these plans. the industry made a decision a long time ago to move outside of the urban centers because that's where the labor unions are. and it was much harder to organize the work force in a smaller town.
but also has created over time to proximity to towns that are often growing in the direction of the meatpacking plants and the meatpacking towns where in fremont if you are a young person that has big ambitions and sort of dreams beyond a life in fremont and beyond working in the packing plant, these places are less than an hour away. and so what you're left with are the people who are the hard-liners of the community committed to a certain version in town and are often very terrified of the city that seems to be creeping towards the door. and evidently that turns into anger towards minorities and outsiders. >> and you documented a fight
that happened in fremont that was happening around the country where the local coalition of citizens gets together and they want to pass the town owned immigration law which would require the companies to verify the immigration status of their employees, which would also very importantly require the home owners to verify the status of people that they went home to. >> there were a lot of instances the constitutionality is in question but what interested me was the terrible spillover of the legal fight. i mean it got really ugly. >> first of all, i think it's important to note that when we are talking about these
ordinances that popped up out of the country at the local level, the walls that were passed in arizona and alabama that this can seem from the outside like a movement of some kind, but it's actually the work of one person. chris, the secretary of state in kansas and is now facing a kind of serious challenge if the person who has offered all of those ordinances and the law. and so, it is now a case where venue for the community looking to do something like this they reach out to get the language that will hold up in court. so there is a kind of outside element that exists in creating all these things.
but at the same time, it taps into what i can only describe as this nativism that exists in a lot of small towns now now busy netopia and the racism that exists at a moment of economic insecurity and fear in this sort of terrible negative reaction to anything that doesn't look familiar. >> what is strange about this to me is that fremont, the town in nebraska, 20,000 or so, but my dad grew up in western nebraska a tiny town about a thousand people and he remembers vividly from his childhood in the 40s but first of all when he was
very young all of the field labor especially in the sugarbeet harvest's this japanese american immigrant labor. when the internment camps were opened, fdr approved bringing in hispanic labor from mexico. and not only was their mexican labor that was brought in but was difficult for the community in that part of the state, but they also were using the pow from germany, italy. my dad's recollection of growing up in a rural community outside of the community in nebraska in the 40s was that they farming community that was made up of people from all over the world. and the notion that these are small towns that have never had this kind of influx it is a
falsehood and so the version of small-town america -- is being created in my opinion has much more to do with a version of america that's been created by the tv and one that has to do with actual history. >> as you point out i just want to emphasize that as this, you know, as you point out the nativism id was approved by the voters that overwhelmingly twice come again it was challenged in court or in the port of the legal battles battles to official you have the shop owners and the defense that are getting bullets shot through their windows between the neighbors it is an ugly scene. and i grew up two blocks from kansas and he's been in the news a lot lately.
he's an interesting guy that has a great scene in the book describing something to you and says there is a beautiful vignette and he stopped and use the english word. >> no french was spoken during this either. >> what do you make of this effort because surely it must appear that they have been mostly ineffective fighting and actually having any sort of change on the immigration pattern and get your selling this in stride in these towns. do you feel like there's a legitimate legal efforts to stem the tide of illegal immigrants or is there something else going on? >> i certainly don't think that this is an effort to create a
larger effect on immigration and immigration policy. this is about changing the equation that you basically make life less comfortable. you make the fear of discrimination or deportation or any of these sorts of negative impacts you make the chances higher. it decreases the likelihood people will come to the u.s. in the first place and it increases the chance that they will leave. it is self deportation as he describes it. >> i think that you show that he asian was changed. >> people have a lot of questions for you so i think if it's okay we will open it up to questions and answer. we have a gentleman here with a microphone.
>> we have someone here in the front row that we will get to. >> just the year that those pilot farms were part of -- what year was that? >> that program when it started started as a bit of a slippery date. but because it was officially accrued first in 97, the meat inspectors sued because they said this is privatizing inspection. the federal defense fiction act requires that it is being carried out by government inspectors. and it took a while for there to be a settlement and a settlement was reached in 2002 and then the implementation started at that point. and it was 2003 into 2004 by the
time all five of the plans for online with the inspection model. >> we have a question in the front row. >> my name is roberta and i'm a public school advocates. i work in the child nutrition programs actually. i have two quick questions. one eu glossed over the pushback in the state government. those of us that work in the government view minnesota as quote on quote an enlightened state and second, if alex involved in bees out of kansas? >> the second answer is a little easier. he's involved in the writing of -- he is not directly involved in what he is doing that i'm
aware of, but i think we can certainly see how some of those things work together. the first question on the state government's pushback, i live in nebraska right now. i have lived over the last 15 years in iowa and then a soda as well and i can tell you these are states that are entirely beholden to the interest in the various states. they are huge campaign donors and the guerrillas of the state politics. they are the big industry that exists in the states. iowa in particular. ramstad, the governor has made it quite clear that whatever the
industry wants is there to give to them. so you end up in situations where not only is the industry asking for specific things and getting them, but any time that there is an opportunity to reduce the regulation of the industry, it is sort of offered as a matter of course. >> i am just wondering if he ran into any of these restrictions or did they shut down on your or what was your reporting experience. >> so, i haven't run into the restrictions per se. what i have seen is over the course of the reporting there is a kind of heightened sense of awareness from the places that are publishing the work that i'm
working on about how the material was gathered about how things are described to make sure that not only that the publication and that i'm protected the people that we are relying on are not running afoul of the law. i'm fascinated but certainly one of them is how incredibly tightlipped they are as a company. i've been writing about them in the publishing and worked for over three years now. they've never issued a statement in response. the strategy seems to be to pretend as if i don't exist. so i don't know what to make of
that. they know that i exist because they've seemed the letters they write to my editors. [laughter] but i don't know how many e-mails and letters and phone calls i sent to various people and always making the case you've got to have a side to this. you have to have a perspective on this. help me understand how you're approaching this and it just gets no reply. the only thing they've ever gotten directly is when i got some internal documents that have to do with the ordinance fight chris was talking about that they actually gave money for the campaign against the ordinance that would have required them to do some changing in the hiring practices
they wrote back and said yes but those are correspondence from us. that was it. has the united states department of agriculture ever done a study showing the efficacy of the pilot projects? the >> i love the leading question. you're going to be shocked by this. the answer is no. and this is always the issue much of what is being argued is common sense because they say
it's obviously going to be better than just having some guys go around and look at things they stop their color and poke them to see how they smell and this is more scientific. and yet, there is very little to do to actually follow up on providing the data that would support that. this pic of a few is to recognize similar privatized inspection systems in australia, canada and new zealand. they are basing that on a project that they've never validated. >> that is a great point. >> we have one right there. >> the study you spoke of
earlier, that was on a food safety record? >> the distinction is looking at how the particular kind of tests they are running on the line how well they match up if you were doing a lab test or a more complete test and not just for testing but the larger sort of model of implementing the testing in the planned. they are looking at the cases where the inspectors had reported that noncompliance reports and in some ways it's especially troubling to me because most of it because they were not specifically studying this is what is referred to as they stumble upon a finding which is to say that we were not actually looking for this
particular violation. what gets me the most is the inspector that says i spotted a contaminated carcass when i was on my way to the bathroom for a bathroom break. >> and he wouldn't have gone into commerce. >> that's correct. >> the difference is basically assembling all of the anecdotal evidence in the report as opposed to doing a full scale systematic study. >> i am also from food and water watch and i had to be from a small town in indiana, so this hit home. the question i have is where you might see any kinks in the armor. i imagine most people in the room work on policy and
certainly an organization that imposes the systems where might that be effective? >> the thing that i think is problematic is what we really need is federal regulation and enforcement of existing regulation as well because the state determines where this is taking place or just simply inundated to the farm bureau interest into the meat packers as well. they are willing to give them anything they want in the name of trying to bring in more tax revenue and try also to get their support. one of the things i wrote about in the book is all of the states
use to have the law against the political integrations of that there was a protection to keep these full market monopolies from occurring. and now that the bans have been rolled back in almost every and almost every midwestern state, it's possible for a meatpacker to not only owned the packing plant that the fields and to consolidate all of that and manipulate the prices of food. i would think this would be a plaintiff particular concern now that smithfield is owned by the money that was provided to the chinese government. and i keep wondering in these
red states how it is happening that people are perfectly fine with a company like smithfield that is showing up and acquiring everything in sight. >> they only make one fifth of all of the ports. in the front row we have a question. >> i was going to ask because the chinese obviously benchmark themselves against us in many areas. they have a major problem with the safe food supply themselves that there's almost a hysteria about that in china and certainly in the upper classes. is there anyway we can turn out to it to our advantage because what it does is add to the pressure to maintain the status quo we might not have a bigger
problem changing things as they invest in the u.s.. is there anyway we can turn out it to a positive force for change? >> that is a great question. the thing that -- the only way is essentially by leveraging that concerned to say we can't allow -- it is bad enough to allow the american owned corporations to have this much control over the market especially the market that is food. but do we then want to hand that over to not just a foreign corporation but the center for investigative reporting from the magnificent piece showing the funding came from the chinese government. they bought smithfield almost at
150% of the market price and there is just a strategic decision been made. it does seem to me at that point we should be at least paying closer attention than we have so far as what this means. and so, as i said, the only thing that i think i can see is asking at that point to did we want to continue to keep the law in place that make it probably so there is so much consolidation that it can be taken advantage of by anyone that comes in with enough money. >> we have a question in the third row, the gentle man in the blue shirt and tie. >> thanks so much. paul shapiro. thanks to the new america foundation for this great event. i will be following up with you
about the intelligence of chickens. [laughter] >> anyway, thanks for your great book and especially passionate writing about animal welfare and the amount of cruelty in the factories. as you know a lot of companies including for now and others have made announcements in response to the public criticism that they are going to move away from practices. i'm wondering why you think it is the companies have been so responsive to criticism over the cruelty but perhaps not the other ones we were talking about today that are often levied against them. >> for one thing, the gestation is something that the public was able to easily understand.
a lot of people are uneasy with that especially when you're talking about here is a space that is a centrally it's going to be kept in for 114 days while she's pregnant. i think it is specific enough for the public to react negatively but at the same time, i have been fascinated by the way in which the politics of this shift around. chris christie is not eager to approve of the band and i thought that the editorials that were published in "the new york
times" were where he said might just this possibly have something to do with the fact that he is planning in 2016 to be campaigning in iowa where they are viewed quite differently. so i think that it is fascinating to see that on the one hand you have something that the public at large, and especially the people that support the ban in new jersey is 93%. you've got to local politics like i have a coming into the election. it's the other part of the question, it turns into the
space is there is a little bit of retrofitting that has to be done but it primarily involves removing things which i think is a lot easier to agree to them massively reformulating. so i think it is also something that the industry can offer as a sort of gesture of concern and showing that they are responsible without having to move too far. >> you've been waiting for a long time and then right next to him, please. >> the research institute for independent living. i'm independent living. i'm a public-health advocate and i'm wondering about that hold conditions of the meatpacking chains with respect to osha. are they doing anything.
and then what are they doing with respect to the tax in the hall to farms? spinnakers are great questions and interesting areas for discussion. it is involves looking at how the safety of the workplace is determined, but it is an interesting loophole in the way that the packing plants are designed and because they are in the court packing plants of course there is no cap on line. it's really the usda inspectors who set the pace of the work. so there's a kind of gap and the regulation that exists where the
meatpacking workers are concerned. right now there is a lawsuit pending and the nebraska appleseed center that does fantastic work for advocacy for the packing workers in nebraska, they are suing both osha and the usda from doing more to address the problem. the other question. they've been reluctant to get involved especially in iowa where there is then the biggest problem to date. they take the direct control of enforcement of the clean water
act if the department of natural resources doesn't do more to regulate itself. it seems impossible to believe, that up until this year in a state that has nearly 10,000 concentrated animal feeding operations, they have seven inspectors. and if those inspectors are the ones who are responsible for going in and making sure that the management plan is being carried out properly. if you can imagine what seven people are able to do against 10,000, essentially all that they do is a few random checks but mostly they are responding to citizen complaints. if you ever want to see a truly
fascinating online database, the state of iowa does maintain a database of the animal feeding operations and you can pull up the individual history of any confinement that's where. and you will see that it almost all the cases come there's an inspector that will come out and will see that there is one problem or another that is in the management plan which generally means there is a leak that the complainant has been cited to closely to a well and it was exceeding the amount that was allowed and what they get issued as a correction order committee sensually don't do this again. so they've been talking about expanding its control of those
waterways. but then the pushback from farm bureau and the state has been they want to take control of the pond on your property. you know, and there's been a lot of talk about what the epa once to regulate. but the reality is something like the raccoon river watershed which is one of the major watersheds in iowa, their own estimate is that the levels need to be reduced by 99% to be safe. it is a crisis. >> i think that we have time for two quick questions if we can.
>> so that the industry it seems it's starting is seems is starting to rally around this idea of sustainable part because mcdonald's said that it would buy them if it wants to verify which who knows what it that is really it doesn't consist yet rated but i'm wondering why the pork industry does not seem, as far as i can tell, to be rallying around this idea of sustainability come and it may not perhaps be because it isn't being pressured into bite consumers invite the industry is doing that in the industry isn't. >> so one of the things he said this is being driven by mcdonald's and this has been true for very long time to make mcdonald's says this is what we want to do with wanted at the beef industry response, because that is how a huge number of americans consume their reef,
the flipside to that is that the american consumption of pork has actually been dropping slightly in recent years. but where all of the growth is for the industry is in the asian markets and so, there's just not the same pressure being brought to bear. so again to come back to the smith field this field example, that's one of the reasons that trying to keep a handle on this now is important because of the market is allowed to expand it to the point that american consumers don't have any pressure to bring on the industry, then the majority of the consumers will be outside of the united states, but the production of the happening here. and as bad as the waterways are
into the working conditions of the packing plants, i can't even imagine what they would be like if that is allowed to happen. >> my name is rose come and i grocery shop. >> good for you. [laughter] >> i found this heartbreaking and i would like to know what i can say to the neighbors who think that a 5-dollar roasted chicken is a good thing to buy. >> yes. so, i really just i struggle with this myself because on the one hand, i think there are things consumers can do to make better choices especially where the sort of quality in
wholesomeness of the food is concerned. for people who eat meat, i don't think that there is anything wrong with deciding to find better quality and smaller quantities. and if you are in a place that it's possible to deal directly with a farmer, i certainly for all the meat i eat at home i have seen that through the entire process and including right up through the slaughter in the churning -- and butchering. but unfortunately, i don't think that that is enough. i don't think that saying i'm
going to buy organic or grass fed or animal approved is enough because first of all, not everybody can afford that and the system is not designed right now to make that kind of food affordable to the large numbers of people especially people on fixed incomes. and i'm very wary of the situation that we end up demonizing people who cannot afford to buy better food. and that's where the pressure in our lawmakers and leaders to do better comes in and says there needs to be regulation. there needs to be a system that favors high-quality seafood that is affordable for everybody.
>> thank you for your hard work and i highly recommend we have copies for sale outside. it's more more surprising than the discussion. thank you so much for being here today. [applause] >> next on booktv james robbins recounts the life and career of general george custer including his childhood in the formative years as well as his time in the field of battle from the civil war to his final defeat at the battle of the big one. this is about one hour and 15 minutes.