Harper’s Magazine goes undercover at Nebraska meatpacking plant

Harpers-1305-302x410Over the weekend, the Lincoln Journal Star published an article about Tom Conover, an award-winning journalist, who went “undercover” as a USDA inspector in a Nebraska meatpacking plant and has recounted his experience in the May 2013 cover story for Harper’s Magazine. (Conover’s article, “The Way of All Flesh”, is available online with a Harper’s subscription.)

During his time at the Schuyler plant, Conover witnessed worrisome practices related to food and worker safety.

One anecdote Conover relays provides an ominous echo of the physical dangers that numerous reports have documented.  When Conover told his supervisor that he was quitting, he writes:

“I told him I missed my family, which was true; that the work was tougher than I’d thought, which was true….I didn’t tell him that I no longer had any feeling in my fingertips each morning, or that I wore a brace at night to alleviate carpal tunnel pain. I knew how he felt about complainers.”

The work takes a heavy toll on the bodies processing our food, and permanent crippling injuries are common because of the intense speed of the processing line. Yet, pressures are equally intense for workers not to complain.

Alabama Appleseed and the Southern Poverty Law Center recently released a major new report, Unsafe at These Speeds, that examines the dangers of meat and poultry processing.  Read Part 1 and Part 2 of our ongoing series on this new report.

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