Boy, are we ever conflicted about our food, and never is this more obvious than when it comes to the thing that we, as a nation, consume more of than just about anyone else on earth: meat.
This is in some way the point of both Christopher Leonard’s brilliant, in-depth portrait of Tyson Foods, “The Meat Racket,” and Maureen Ogle’s “In Meat We Trust,” her fascinating history of what she calls “Carnivore America.” Food production is not just about food — it’s about almost everything else, too, from politics to culture to economics. Both books elucidate two guiding contradictions of the American experience. The first is that we are suspicious of big businesses, even as we worship the individuals who build them. Second, we loathe industrial food production, even as we continue to move en masse to cities and suburbs, thereby deepening our dependence on cheap, ubiquitous edibles.