chapter  7
16 Pages

Meat

ByMICHAEL D. WISE

My father worked on the kill floor of an Oscar Mayer hog-slaughter plant in Perry, Iowa during the 1970s, witnessing the transformation of live pigs into hot dogs for the supermarket meat case. The pigs arrived as individuals with their own pasts, but left in mass shipments of agglomerated fats and proteins. An army of skilled workers accomplished the task of stunning, bleeding, and dividing each hog as they rattled down the disassembly line. Their job was to purge the animal from the pig’s body; to extinguish its personhood and resurrect its flesh as meat, the hung and split carcasses splattering blood, brains, and bile across the industrial machinery. As a junior member of the maintenance crew, my father’s job was to clean up the mess with bleach and a pressurized hose, work that paid his way to a college degree.