We seldom think about where our meat comes from. This is no oversight – it is designed.



Studio: Joint Architecture and Landscape Architecture Studio, Knowlton School if Architecture, 2017

Instructors: Forbes Lipschitz, Katie Jenkins and Andrew Cruse

At the turn of the 20th century, slaughterhouses were common fixtures of the urban landscape. Cattle and hogs were transported by rail to stockyards in Chicago, Cincinnati, St. Louis and Kansas City, where they could be processed and distributed to nearby markets. In response to national trends of urbanization and industrialization, animal processing emerged as one of the first mass-production industries in the United States, from which Henry Ford is thought to have derived his mode of assembly line production. Slaughterhouses were not hidden from the public eye, but rather celebrated as icons of progress and innovation.

After the publication of Upton Sinclair’s exposé, The Jungle, however, the fascination with this industrialized slaughter was gradually replaced by a collective distaste for the brutality of the meat processing industry. As Richard Bulliet describes in his book Hunters, Herders and Hamburgers: The Past and Future of Human-Animal Relationships, contemporary American society “continues to consume animal products in abundance, but psychologically, its members experience feelings of guilt, shame and disgust when they think (as seldom as possible) about the industrial processes by which domestic animals are rendered into products.” To assuage our collective cultural guilt, the slaughterhouse was relocated, but not reformed. By the mid-1950s, spurred by advancements in refrigeration technology and the expansion of the interstate highway system, packinghouses were relocated to be closer to livestock producers.

We seldom think about where our meat comes from. This is no oversight – it is designed. The remote siting and placeless design of livestock production and processing allow society to avoid confronting the unsettling nature of slaughter. This work challenges the designed indifference of contemporary meat processing and examines more local, sustainable, transparent and humane models of slaughter.