Attack on the Meatpackers

Powerful Essays
Topics: Meat, Beef, Democracy
1. Attack on the Meatpackers (1906) Upton Sinclair

Introduction Today we often take for granted the government legislation that protects our health. Investigative reports on television even go to great lengths to show us when the health guidelines are being violated. In other words, we assume the food available for us to eat is safe. The federal government, however, was not always so involved in such issues. You may want to review the section in your text about progressivism before analyzing this excerpt from Upton Sinclair's The Jungle.

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. . . And then there was the condemned meat industry, with its endless horrors. The people of Chicago saw the government inspectors in Packingtown, and they all took that to mean that they were protected from diseased meat; they did not understand that these hundred and sixty-three inspectors had been appointed at the request of the packers, and that they were paid by the United States government to certify that all the diseased meat was kept in the state. They had no authority beyond that; for the inspection of meat to be sold in the city and state the whole force in Packingtown consisted of three henchmen of the local political machine! . . .

And then there was "potted game" and "potted grouse," "potted ham," and "deviled ham"—devyled, as the men called it. "De-vyled" ham was made out of the waste ends of smoked beef that were too small to be sliced by the machines; and also tripe, dyed with chemicals so that it would not show white, and trimmings of hams and corned beef, and potatoes, skins and all, and finally the hard cartilaginous gullets of beef, after the tongues had been cut out. All this ingenious mixture was ground up and flavored with spices to make it taste like something. Anybody who could invent a new imitation had been sure of a fortune from old Durham, said Jurgis's informant, but it was hard to think of anything new in a place where so many sharp wits had been at work

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