The best books to understand the meat industry

Who am I?

I’m an investigative journalist who focuses on the intersection of finance, wealth accounting, and climate change. I head up food and agriculture coverage at Forbes, and have been reporting on the wealth and power hiding within the food industry for nearly a decade. I’ve been called a billionaire whisperer, and have a knack for getting folks to talk. Based in New York City, I’m a member of a Lower East Side community-supported agriculture share and keep composting worms on my terrace garden. 


I wrote...

Raw Deal: Hidden Corruption, Corporate Greed, and the Fight for the Future of Meat

By Chloe Sorvino,

Book cover of Raw Deal: Hidden Corruption, Corporate Greed, and the Fight for the Future of Meat

What is my book about?

A shocking and unputdownable exposé of the United States meat industry, the devastating failures of the country’s food system, and the growing disappointment of alternative meat producers claiming to revolutionize the future of food. 

The top meatpackers continue to control massive amounts of power and profits, at the detriment of producers and consumers. Business is booming, while we are running out of time to solve the problems of today’s meat industry— even though it’s crucial that meaningful gains for more accessible and wholesome protein are made before the end of the decade. The climate clock is ticking. The system which produces America’s meat, as is, needs an overhaul.

The books I picked & why

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The Meat Racket: The Secret Takeover of America's Food Business

By Christopher Leonard,

Book cover of The Meat Racket: The Secret Takeover of America's Food Business

Why this book?

This book, in many ways, is the spiritual grandfather to mine. Christopher Leonard is a pioneer: He went to a level of detail that no one had before. His deep investigation of Tyson Foods is a formative example of how corporations pick profits over their farmers and use their power to exert control over producers, workers, and suppliers. It has informed my research time and time again. 

The Meat Racket: The Secret Takeover of America's Food Business

By Christopher Leonard,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Meat Racket as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

An investigative journalist takes you inside the corporate meat industry—a shocking, in-depth report every American should read.

How much do you know about the meat on your dinner plate? Journalist Christopher Leonard spent more than a decade covering the country’s biggest meat companies, including four years as the national agribusiness reporter for the Associated Press. Now he delivers the first comprehensive look inside the industrial meat system, exposing how a handful of companies executed an audacious corporate takeover of the nation’s meat supply.

Leonard’s revealing account shines a light on the inner workings of Tyson Foods, a pioneer of the…


Slow Cooked: An Unexpected Life in Food Politics

By Marion Nestle,

Book cover of Slow Cooked: An Unexpected Life in Food Politics

Why this book?

Marion Nestle is an iconic advocate for a better food system, and all of her 15 books should be read. My book quotes her 2020 Let’s Ask Marion extensively — and her perspective on shareholder returns has particularly informed my work. I refer back to her books and popular newsletter, Food Politics, all the time. But Slow Cooked is the direct line to her brain, and is as wry and personal as it is crucial to understanding the nutritional deficiency built throughout the industrialized food sector. 

Slow Cooked: An Unexpected Life in Food Politics

By Marion Nestle,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Slow Cooked as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"A chronicle of hard work and a public health resource, Slow Cooked is also proof that it's never too late."-New York Times

Marion Nestle reflects on her late-in-life career as a world-renowned food politics expert, public health advocate, and a founder of the field of food studies after facing decades of low expectations.

In this engrossing memoir, Marion Nestle reflects on how she achieved late-in-life success as a leading advocate for healthier and more sustainable diets. Slow Cooked recounts of how she built an unparalleled career at a time when few women worked in the sciences, and how she came…


Nourishment: What Animals Can Teach Us about Rediscovering Our Nutritional Wisdom

By Fred Provenza,

Book cover of Nourishment: What Animals Can Teach Us about Rediscovering Our Nutritional Wisdom

Why this book?

Fred Provenza gives reason after reason for why the meat we eat can be so much better, and all the ways that what is currently sold is failing. Most of what is available in stores and restaurants lack phytonutrients. The meat often has low levels of healthy fats and acids which are crucial for a healthy diet. But when animals eat from the open range, everything changes. Provenza also writes about climate change’s perverse impacts on farming, and how extreme heat saps the nutrients from plants. I write a lot about how most of what is available in stores and restaurants lack phytonutrients. The meat often has low levels of healthy fats and acids which are crucial for a healthy diet. But when animals eat from the open range, everything changes, which Provenza taught me.

Nourishment: What Animals Can Teach Us about Rediscovering Our Nutritional Wisdom

By Fred Provenza,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Nourishment as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"Nourishment will change the way you eat and the way you think."-Mark Schatzker, author of The Dorito Effect

"[Provenza is] a wise observer of the land and the animals [and] becomes transformed to learn the meaning of life."-Temple Grandin

Reflections on feeding body and spirit in a world of change

Animal scientists have long considered domestic livestock to be too dumb to know how to eat right, but the lifetime research of animal behaviorist Fred Provenza and his colleagues has debunked this myth. Their work shows that when given a choice of natural foods, livestock have an astoundingly refined palate,…


Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal

By Eric Schlosser,

Book cover of Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal

Why this book?

In this food industry investigative classic, Eric Schlosser explores fast food, but also the meat industry’s intertwining ties to it. That’s where I went back to explore and later cite in my book, after reading Fast Food Nation so many years before. I found reading the details of the union standoff at mafia-affiliated Iowa Beef Packers as well as how the unhealthy processing of meat into cheap and quick-to-cook food to be crucial to my work. Schlosser explores how meat became a fast-food-driven pop culture phenomenon, and that’s where I took the baton.

Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal

By Eric Schlosser,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Fast Food Nation as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Now the subject of a film by Richard Linklater, Eric Schlosser's explosive bestseller Fast Food Nation: What the All-American Meal is Doing to the World tells the story of our love affair with fast food.

Britain eats more fast food than any other country in Europe. It looks good, tastes good, and it's cheap. But the real cost never appears on the menu.

Eric Schlosser visits the lab that re-creates the smell of strawberries; examines the safety records of abattoirs; reveals why the fries really taste so good and what lurks between the sesame buns - and shows how fast…


Magic Bean: The Rise of Soy in America

By Matthew Roth,

Book cover of Magic Bean: The Rise of Soy in America

Why this book?

Livestock eat a lot of corn and soy, and Matthew David Roth shares the detailed history of how industry fueled that rise over only a few decades. I found the primary documents and deep research Roth cites to be illuminating. I write about how monoculture like commodity soy has had devastating impacts on the soil and waterways across the U.S. This book was key to my research because it’s so important to understand how we got here.

Magic Bean: The Rise of Soy in America

By Matthew Roth,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Magic Bean as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

At the turn of the twentieth century, soybeans grew on so little of America's land that nobody bothered to track the total. By the year 2000, they covered upward of 70 million acres, second only to corn, and had become the nation's largest cash crop. How this little-known Chinese transplant, initially grown chiefly for forage, turned into a ubiquitous component of American farming, culture, and cuisine is the story Matthew Roth tells in Magic Bean: The Rise of Soy in America.

The soybean's journey from one continent into the heart of another was by no means assured or predictable. In…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in investigative journalism, food industry, and diet?

7,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about investigative journalism, food industry, and diet.

Investigative Journalism Explore 20 books about investigative journalism
Food Industry Explore 12 books about food industry
Diet Explore 12 books about diet

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

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