The Jungle that Is the Meat Industry

I’m no lawyer or scientist, but I believe that hard, reliable evidence and information is the most important factor that affects the decisions we make. This applies to our examination of the meat industry, in that fact alone will show us truth. Therefore, we must learn about important incidents in the institution’s controversial history and investigate events that changed it.

One such instance was the release of the famous book The Jungle. Upton Sinclair, author of The Jungle, was a famous American writer and self-proclaimed socialist. His upbringing, which was split by a poverty-stricken paternal side and a wealthy maternal side, led to his drive for exposing the underside of American life. The Jungle, which he published in 1906, opened the eyes of the public to everything that they did not want to know about the American food industry. Through a fictional plot, Sinclair describes abysmally low wages and filthy and dangerous working conditions.

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He discusses unsanitary practices, such as workers cutting and handling meat without having washed their hands for days. Sinclair condemned revolting procedures in meat processing, such as the packaging of contaminated animal guts off of the slaughterhouse floor into meat products. He also revealed the corruption and underhandedness of those who were supposed to be regulating the meat industry. The Jungle was so shocking that it was rejected 6 times by publishers, for politically and socially idealistic books are often not received well. However, after it was finally published, the book had a huge effect on America’s entire food industry.

The book sold over 150,000 copies, was translated into 17 languages, and became an international bestseller. Americans were so horrified by Sinclair’s expose that they demanded reform. An investigation of Chicago’s meatpacking plants was launched, and food laws were actually changed with the establishment of the Meat Inspection Act and the Pure Food and Drug Act in 1906. These laws revolutionized our food industry; before they were put into place, any ingredients could be put into foods and any claims about a food could be made. The Meat Inspection Act, which required both pre-and-post slaughtered animals to meet cleanliness standards, was passed.

The Pure Food and Drug Act, which required prescriptions for certain medications, label warnings on habit-forming drugs, and ingredients lists, was also enacted. The Jungle is living proof of the pairing of “literature and social reform.” We must examine and acknowledge the effects of the laws that these investigations led to. We must credit this book, a fresh set of eyes to the reality of the meat industry, as a work that enacted positive change to a corrupted institution.