Open in the App Open in the App Open in the App
Get the key ideas from

The Meat Racket

The Secret Takeover of America’s Food Business

By Christopher Leonard
18-minute read
Audio available
The Meat Racket: The Secret Takeover of America’s Food Business by Christopher Leonard

The Meat Racket (2014) tells the bleak story of how a few giant corporations managed to monopolize the entire meat market in the United States. Through cunning business strategy, massive loans and a fair amount of bullying, companies like Tyson Foods rule the meat industry virtually unchallenged.

  • Anyone interested in the state of modern agriculture
  • Fast food lovers who believe their chicken nuggets come from Old McDonald’s farm
  • Anyone hoping for a better understanding of where their food originates

Christopher Leonard is a fellow at the New America Foundation, a nonpartisan public policy institute, and has worked as an agribusiness reporter for the Associated Press. The Meat Racket is his first best-selling book.

Go Premium and get the best of Blinkist

Upgrade to Premium now and get unlimited access to the Blinkist library. Read or listen to key insights from the world’s best nonfiction.

Upgrade to Premium

What is Blinkist?

The Blinkist app gives you the key ideas from a bestselling nonfiction book in just 15 minutes. Available in bitesize text and audio, the app makes it easier than ever to find time to read.

Discover
3,000+ top
nonfiction titles

Get unlimited access to the most important ideas in business, investing, marketing, psychology, politics, and more. Stay ahead of the curve with recommended reading lists curated by experts.

Join Blinkist to get the key ideas from

The Meat Racket

The Secret Takeover of America’s Food Business

By Christopher Leonard
  • Read in 18 minutes
  • Audio & text available
  • Contains 11 key ideas
The Meat Racket: The Secret Takeover of America’s Food Business by Christopher Leonard
Synopsis

The Meat Racket (2014) tells the bleak story of how a few giant corporations managed to monopolize the entire meat market in the United States. Through cunning business strategy, massive loans and a fair amount of bullying, companies like Tyson Foods rule the meat industry virtually unchallenged.

Key idea 1 of 11

The secret to Tyson Foods’ huge success was vertical integration.

What’s the best way for a company to increase its profits without actually having to improve its product? One business might start by improving its marketing campaign, while another could streamline processes in order to reduce redundancy.

For a huge company, however, these small-time solutions simply won’t cut it; it would need something much grander.

For Tyson Foods, this grand idea was vertical integration, a process by which a company takes control of all the independent businesses that work with it.

In Tyson’s case, companies from throughout the meat supply chain, such as farmers, feed producers, slaughterhouses and distributors, were placed under the company’s tight grip.

This doesn’t necessarily mean that Tyson owns each of these partners. Rather, they are simply under Tyson’s control by virtue of their contractual relationships: among other things, they have to comply with Tyson’s strategy and prices, as well as work with other Tyson companies.

The big advantages of vertical integration are that it helps mitigate competition and unify strategy.

When a single company controls the entire supply chain, it’s extremely difficult for a competitor to enter the market. Where will competing companies find farmers if Tyson controls them all? Where will they find people to butcher and process the meat? In all likelihood, they won’t.

Furthermore, when you control the entire production process, you can force people to work toward your own strategic goals. With the competition vanquished, farmers, butchers and processors simply have nowhere to go if they oppose Tyson’s practices.

For example, Tyson favors quantity over quality in its production, preferring mass-produced meat over higher quality alternatives. To this end, Tyson has forced its farmers to provide cattle with Zilmax, a drug that makes them grow faster. Farmers either agree to this practice, or get cut out of the business.

For Tyson, this strategy is incredibly profitable – for its suppliers, it isn’t at all. In 2010 alone, Tyson Foods sold $28.43 billion worth of meat, earning $780 million in profits.

Key ideas in this title

No time to
read?

Pssst. Sign up to your secret to success: key ideas from top nonfiction in just 15 minutes.
Created with Sketch.