Digging Deeper


'In Meat We Trust' author is 'explainer'

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Just in time for Thanksgiving – and American tables loaded down with big meat – we talked to author Maureen Ogle about her new book, “In Meat We Trust.”

It’s a fascinating read, tracing our carnivorous country from the time the Europeans arrived here through the urban slaughterhouses to the meat factories we know today. The U.S. consumes more meat than just about anywhere else and it has a long philosophic tradition that says everyone deserves all that protein.

What now drives the industry, Ogle said, was the move to a more urban population after World War II and city dwellers demand for cheap food.

“Our food system, at its heart, is quite simple,” she said. “It’s designed to feed an urban majority.”

Ogle talked to our Jeremy Bernfeld for a talk show on our partner station, KCUR. She told Jeremy that she began researching the book seven years ago – well before Michael Pollen shook up the food establishment with “The Omnivore’s Dilemma.”

She had no idea that her subject would turn out to be so controversial, and she’s quick to defend herself of claims that she’s on the side of large-scale livestock production. As an historian, Ogle said, she’s simply an “explainer.”

“I don’t have any skin in this game. I didn’t have an agenda when I wrote the book. I’m not an apologist for farmers, the meat industry or anything else,” she said. “I’m a historian, pure and simple.”

I must report that we often feel the same way, reporting what we know and being accused by both sides of an argument as shilling for the other side. I've written about this before -- my shorthand for the two sides is "Red State/Blue State."

But what most people don't want to hear is that agriculture and food production is a complicated subject, oftentimes not single-sourced as to its problems, and it took decades for the industry to look like it does today. If that interests you, too, Ogle's book is for you. 

To listen to Jeremy’s interview – with a sideline report from me – click on the widget above.