The birth of USDA and FDA

Hey!  Walked away from my computer to prepare supper.   Listening to Modern Marvels: The Butcher, while making bread and spaghetti sauce.  Learned something new.

But first I have to tell you the quotes that struck me as I’m listening to the history of the change from local butcher to packing plant factories….

Narrator: “The railways determined who would become America’s top butchering town.”

“By 1861, Chicago had miles of stockyards to house the cattle and hogs arriving every day on the trains.  Packing plants sprouted up almost over night.”

Historian: “If you were going to make money in the packing business, you had to be able to have a system that allowed you to pay unskilled worker’s .14 an hour and only .50 an hour to skilled workers.”

Previous employee of Armour Packing Plant: “10 – 12 hour days were the norm.   You had to stay focused on your cuts, otherwise you’d hold up the assembly line.  And there was hell to pay if you held up the assembly line.  The heat, the screaming animals, the smell…it was hard work.”

Narrator: “Upton Sinclair published his novel, “The Jungle” in 1906 to shed light and raise public awareness of the poor working conditions of employees in the packing industry. “

Historian: “The book actually had a very different response.  People focused on the 13 or 14 pages that talked about workers falling from exhaustion into vats of fat, the loss of fingers and other limbs from equipment.   People were outraged their food supply was contaminated.”

Narrator: “The USDA was created to inspect both animals and packing facilities.   The Pure Food and Drug Act (mother of the FDA agency) followed in reaction to this outcry.”


So what did I get out of this story?

Mr. Sinclair said, “Look!  Look at what  business owners are requiring of their workers and what they are paying them.   We need to change this.”

Majority of Public said, “How dare those peasants taint our food supply!  My well-fed tummy before the suffering of my fellow man.  Somebody better get in there and make sure they quit putting their severed limbs in our food.”


Well, gotta go and finish spaghetti sauce complete with sausage made from a pig that was raised in roomy, clean digs and who had to wait an extra week before going to the butcher.   Seems the locker plant I do business with only takes on so much work at once.   They like to do a good job on their cuts and let their workers have a weekend….  They risked losing business by telling me I’d have to wait for a week….

Good for them.


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