Meatpacking America

How Migration, Work, and Faith Unite and Divide the Heartland

By Kristy Nabhan-Warren


280 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 12 halftones, notes, index

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-1-4696-6349-4
    Published: September 2021
  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-4696-6348-7
    Published: September 2021
  • eBook ISBN: 978-1-4696-6350-0
    Published: August 2021

Paperback Available September 2021, but pre-order your copy today!

Buy this Book

For Professors:
Free E-Exam Copies

Whether valorized as the heartland or derided as flyover country, the Midwest became instantly notorious when COVID-19 infections skyrocketed among workers in meatpacking plants—and Americans feared for their meat supply. But the Midwest is not simply the place where animals are fed corn and then butchered. Native midwesterner Kristy Nabhan-Warren spent years interviewing Iowans who work in the meatpacking industry, both native-born residents and recent migrants from Latin America, Africa, and Asia. In Meatpacking America, she digs deep below the stereotype and reveals the grit and grace of a heartland that is a major global hub of migration and food production—and also, it turns out, of religion.

Across the flatlands, Protestants, Catholics, and Muslims share space every day as worshippers, employees, and employers. On the bloody floors of meatpacking plants, in bustling places of worship, and in modest family homes, longtime and newly arrived Iowans spoke to Nabhan-Warren about their passion for religious faith and desire to work hard for their families. Their stories expose how faith-based aspirations for mutual understanding blend uneasily with rampant economic exploitation and racial biases. Still, these new and old midwesterners say that a mutual language of faith and morals brings them together more than any of them would have ever expected.

About the Author

Kristy Nabhan-Warren is the V. O. and Elizabeth Kahl Figge Chair of Catholic Studies and a professor in the Departments of Religious Studies and Gender, Women's, and Sexuality Studies at the University of Iowa. She is the author, most recently, of The Cursillo Movement in America: Catholics, Protestants, and Fourth-Day Spirituality.
For more information about Kristy Nabhan-Warren, visit the Author Page.

Reviews

“Kristy Nabhan-Warren gives us rare insight into the worlds of faith running in parallel, and sometimes colliding, in rural Iowa meatpacking communities transformed by immigration. Faith sustains the refugee on his or her journey, it builds lasting and vital communities, and sometimes it’s used to rationalize brutal work that is intended to feed us. So often, it is overlooked by those of us who don’t have a clue who cut that Iowa Chop.”—Art Cullen, Pulitzer Prize–winning editor of The Storm Lake (Iowa) Times and author of Storm Lake: Change, Resilience, and Hope in America’s Heartland

Meatpacking America is so vivid: the blood, the smells, the slippery floors, and the sharp knives. I wondered how these workers ever got the stench off their bodies. Did it follow them to the grocery store? To church? In this remarkably penetrating book, Kristy Nabhan-Warren cuts through the midwestern myths, the pristine lawns, and the flower beds to introduce us to the immigrant labor force keeping America (and the world) fed. And there’s really no better way to do that than to start in the churches and the meatpacking plants of America’s heartland. This book got it right in every way.”

—Felipe Hinojosa, author of Apostles of Change: Latino Radical Politics, Church Occupations, and the Fight to Save the Barrio

“A wonderfully rich deep dive into the lives of people in rural America who are generally neglected and often misunderstood by both the national media and experts, Meatpacking America illuminates the nuances and complications of the personal faith lives of longtime Iowans and new migrants alike. With wisdom and insight, it reveals shared values among many kinds of people without denying the presence of racism and ethnocentrism.”

—Robert Wuthnow, author of What Happens When We Practice Religion? Textures of Devotion in Everyday Life