Fast Food Nation

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Unformatted text preview: unfair tactics to drive down the price of cattle. Anger toward the large meatpackers is growing, and a new range war threatens to erupt, one that will determine the social and economic structure of the rural West. A century ago, American ranchers found themselves in a similar predicament. The leading sectors of the nation’s economy were controlled by corporate alliances known as “trusts.” There was a Sugar Trust, a Steel Trust, a Tobacco Trust — and a Beef Trust. It set the prices offered for cattle. Ranchers who spoke out against this monopoly power were often blackballed, unable to sell their cattle at any price. In 1917, at the height of the Beef Trust, the five largest meatpacking companies — Armour, Swift, Morris, Wilson, and Cudahy — controlled about 55 percent of the market. The early twentieth century had trusts, but it also had “trustbusters,” progressive government officials who believed that concentrated economic power posed a grave threat to American democracy. The Sherman Antitrust Act had been passed in 1890 after a congressional investigation of...
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