In Chicken: The Dangerous Transformation of Americas Favorite Food, by Steve Striffler, he investigates the connection between immigrants and chickens and if there are better ways to produce chicken for food. People’s choices of food are developed starting at a young age. The food industry leads people to make wrong choices when eating food. Today, people know very little about where food comes from, how it is grown and processed. Through the study of chickens, tensions and contradictions of the American food system are shown.
Striffler starts off his book by talking about the history of chicken from the perspective of the consumers. There was a rise of processed poultry products. This was due to the affordability and healthiness that was promoted for it postwar. There was also an increase in marketing that led to its popularity. Before and after the war, poultry development was different. Farmers and small businesses lost control of chicken production to large agribusinesses. He proceeds to talk about local production of chickens like Holly Farm in North Carolina. Local farms are defined by mergers and acquisitions with big businesses. Since the postwar, the food industry has been defined by mergers which has had major consequences on farms and their workers.
The author moves on to talk about immigrations role on the food industry. The production of chickens for food has a growing dependence on the immigrant labor force. The influence of industrial poultry extends to the communities, schools, and churches that surround them. Striffler touches on of the biggest legal cases of the food industry. Tyson foods was indicted by U.S. immigration and INS for smuggling in illegal immigrants to work at processing plants. This case highlights the complexity between food and immigrants. It also shows the lengths, time, and resources that immigrants must go to, to get jobs that others do not want. Workers go through a lot while working in the plants. They experience much pressure, intensity, and pain while working but they also feel a sense of pride when getting the job done. Poultry workers are not received well by other people. They tend to be looked down upon. The food industry has altered the racial and ethnic makeup of Middle American towns. He finishes off the book by talking about how there must be alternate and better ways of processing chickens. When food workers feel empowered and are compensated, healthy food are able to be produced for about the same amount as they are made now.