by Bill Droel
The Jungle by Upton Sinclair (1878-1968) is a standard on high school summer reading lists; that is, for those high schools that still expect education to occur beyond the classroom. It was first published in serial form in 1905 for a Kansas City weekly newspaper, Appeal To Reason. The author’s intention was to highlight the exploitation of immigrant workers in Chicago’s stockyards. The book’s positive outcome, however, was directed elsewhere. As Sinclair put it: “I aimed at the public’s heart, and by accident I hit it in the stomach.” To the public The Jungle was an alarm about food safety, not so much about the safety of workers. Thus soon after publication, President Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919) advocated for and Congress passed two major food policies and established a department which is now called Food and Drug Administration. So what happened to the workers?
Chicago’s Union Stockyards closed in 1971 (though two small slaughtering houses still operate in that neighborhood). In our country slaughtering and meat packing now takes place in the South. Chicken and other poultry, for example, is processed in Arkansas and North Carolina. Beef and pork are still packaged in the Midwest, but now in smaller plants in remote towns. Read more