Ms. Sarah Thompson
21 September 2016
For this semester in this section of English 102, I have decided for my topic to be based off this single question: Since the publication of Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle, how far has our meat packing industry come, if at all, and where can it improve? There are a few basic facts that can be made from this argument simply by reading the question. At the time of The Jungle’s publication in 1906, the meat packing plants of Chicago had a bitter reputation for poor sanitation, poor working conditions, low hourly wages, and ruthless corporate chairs. Sinclair’s work, centered on the topic of “muckraking,” was aimed at bringing the horrors of the wretched industry to light, and have the information spread throughout the United States in order to bring about change, no doubt in the form of new national legislation. There are a small number of arguments that can be made based off the original question, no doubt the most popular being, “The meat packing industry has without a doubt improved, due to the passing of the Federal Meat Inspection Act of 1906.” Another argument could be that “the meat packing industry has improved, but there continue to be questionable actions that take place behind closed doors today.” The main issue that arises with this first argument is yet another question: exactly how and what does the Federal Meat Inspection Act cover, and what are the regulations? The Meat Inspection Act, to the delight of my reader, appears very thorough and specific. It states that facilities “must be clean and are able to be clean” and goes into the specifics of “ante-mortem inspection, postmortem inspection, and product inspection” (Meat Inspection). While this act lays the groundwork for meat inspection across the country, there remains the question of whether action should or should not be taken on modern day meat packing. Again, the industry has significantly improved, but in what ways can it be made better? One may be debating the seriousness of this issue or if the issue as a whole is event relevant at all in our times. The issue is absolutely important, in the sense that eating contaminated food that has been previously “approved” by our own federal government should be the equivalent of a felony on both the government and the plant’s part. This question can be connected back to the tail end of the nineteenth century with the Embalmed Beef scandal of 1898, when “tons of rotten beef had been supplied to the U.S. Army in Cuba during the Spanish-American War” (Meat Inspection Act of 1906). The contaminated food given to the soldiers made several ill from food poisoning, resulting in some deaths and many more inhibited from combat. If action does need to be taken in order to improve current regulations on the meat packing industry, we could take on a similar role of Upton Sinclair, in which we expose the possible unsanitary conditions (or corruption) from the large plants, and pass national legislation once again.
“Meat Inspection – Meat Science.” Meat Science. Agricultural and Life Sciences, Texas A&M University, n.d. Web. 21 Sept. 2016.
Rouse, Kristen L. “Meat Inspection Act of 1906.” Encyclopedia Britannica Online. Encyclopedia Britannica, 11 Aug. 2016. Web. 21 Sept. 2016.