Goldilocks and the Three Slaughterhouses: Examining Scale in the Meat Processing Industry

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Amity Doolittle
Essay Abstract: 
Since the mid 20th century, the meat processing industry in the United States has been dominated by large-scale, industrial slaughterhouses, owned primarily by four major meat packers. Today, as consumers begin to demand a more diverse range of meat products (including organic, local, and grassfed meats), demand grows among alternative meat producers for regionally based, mid-sized processing plants. Despite this purported demand, many of the plans to build and maintain mid-level slaughterhouses have ended in financial failure. The question then arises: why does the contradiction between demand for mid-level meat processing and failure of such facilities persist? By examining case studies of mid-level plants based in the western states, this thesis seeks to understand the opportunities and challenges faced by regional meat processors and the subsequent implications for the alternative meat industry.