The Runt, Or the Making and Unmaking of the American Meat Pig

Alex Blanchette, PhD Candidate, University of Chicago and Assistant Professor of Anthropology and Environmental Studies, Tufts University (starting in 2013), and Weatherhead Fellow, SAR

Colloquium, SAR Boardroom

Wednesday, March 27, 2013, 12:00–1:00 pm, Free

Alex BlanchetteAlex Blanchette2012–2013 Weatherhead Resident Scholar, photograph by Jason S. OrdazAlex Blanchette2012–2013 Weatherhead Resident Scholar, photograph by Jason S. Ordaz

Blanchette’s research explores the idea of the “factory” in the American factory farm, tracking this vexed concept as it is enlivened across the workplaces of some of the world’s largest pork corporations from genetics to slaughter. Many would argue that the American factory farm exists for one reason: to create a standardized animal whose meat can satisfy the demands of wholesale customers such as McDonald’s or Wal-Mart. These companies require consistency in carcass quality, taste, texture, and fat content for the purposes of subsequent processing and branding. Creating a truly standardized animal at the scale of seven million, however, requires rigid management of everything from porcine genetics to sentience. Through an analysis of labor and human-animal relations in the farrowing node of a factory farm—the segment where the pigs are born—this presentation develops a way to think about the constellations of politics and value embedded in the standardized meat pig as a (unique) type of industrial being. Along the way, we will touch on topics as diverse as engineered forms of life, interspecies love, senses of craft, trauma, and workers’ rights.

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