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Planning for Change in Small Towns or Trying to Avoid the Slaughterhouse Blues



Rural farming communities throughout the Prairies and Great Plains have sought to reverse decades of slow economic decline by attracting value-added processing of agricultural products as a means of economic development. The meatpacking industry has been attracted to the region by the availability of fed cattle. It has created thousands of low-paying jobs and boosted local agricultural economies by increasing the demand for animals and feedstuffs, while at the same time impairing water quality and bringing a host of social problems to packinghouse communities. This article examines how the town of Brooks, Alberta prepared and dealt with these challenges over a two year period following the expansion of a beefpacking plant. Despite the advance warning of the social changes that would accompany the hiring of additional workers the town failed to meet the housing needs of newcomers recruited to work at the plant and experienced a significant increase in a variety of social disorders. The study concludes that preparing for change begins with the recognition that social and environmental impacts are inevitable with the arrival of a new industry. A pro-active response to protecting the environment and ensuring that basic human needs are met is better for a community and its workforce than having changes thrust upon it by an industry whose only interest is in maximizing profits.
Journal of Rural Studies 16 (2000) 37}46
Planning for change in small towns or trying to avoid
the slaughterhouse blues
Michael J. Broadway*
Department of Geography, Northern Michigan University, Marquette, MI 49855, USA
Rural farming communities throughout the Prairies and Great Plains have sought to reverse decades of slow economic decline by
attracting value-added processing of agricultural products as a means of economic development. The meatpacking industry has been
attracted to the region by the availability of fed cattle. It has created thousands of low-paying jobs and boosted local agricultural
economies by increasing the demand for animals and feedstu!s, while at the same time impairing water quality and bringing a host of
social problems to packinghouse communities. This article examines how the town of Brooks, Alberta prepared and dealt with these
challenges over a two year period following the expansion of a beefpacking plant. Despite the advance warning of the social changes
that would accompany the hiring of additional workers the town failed to meet the housing needs of newcomers recruited to work at
the plant and experienced a signi"cant increase in a variety of social disorders. The study concludes that preparing for change begins
with the recognition that social and environmental impacts are inevitable with the arrival of a new industry. A pro-active response to
protecting the environment and ensuring that basic human needs are met is better for a community and its workforce than having
changes thrust upon it by an industry whose only interest is in maximizing pro"ts. (1999 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.
1. Introduction
Since the 1950s population decline and farm consoli-
dation have characterized rural areas throughout the
Great Plains and Prairies. These processes have com-
bined with recent declines in commodity prices to reduce
local purchasing power and adversely a!ect the eco-
nomic fortunes of small towns throughout the region. In
an e!ort to reverse these trends economic development
o$cials have looked to value-added processing of agri-
cultural products as a means of generating employment
and sustaining communities. Tax incentives and public
investments in infrastructure have, for example, been
used to attract large slaughter capacity meat processing
plants throughout the region. These inducements com-
bined with the availability of fed cattle, hogs and water
have led to a shift in meatpacking plants from urban
areas to rural areas in the Great Plains and Prairies
(Broadway, 1997, 1995).
The sudden announcement that 2000 manufacturing
jobs will be added to the economic base of a small town
*Tel.: #1-906-227-2636; fax: #1-906-227-1621.
E-mail address: (M.J. Broadway)
would appear to be welcome news. In 1997 Maple Leaf
Foods of Toronto announced plans for a new hog pro-
cessing facility outside of Brandon, Manitoba that will
employ 2000 workers. Three years earlier, the world's
largest meat processor, IBP of Dakota City, Nebraska,
purchased Lakeside Packers of Brooks, Alberta and im-
mediately announced plans to add 2000 workers to the
plant's labour force. Earlier in the decade the company
constructed a beef processing plant in Lexington, Neb-
raska employing over 2400 workers; while Seabord Corp.
established a hog processing facility in the Oklahoma
panhandle town of Guymon that now employs over 2000
persons. These and other similar developments represent
the industrialization of agriculture and are the product of
cost-cutting strategies pioneered by US meatpacking
companies and innovations in cattle and hog feeding.
The US experience indicates that the shift from an urban
to rural-based meatpacking industry has been a mixed
blessing for small towns where packing plants have
located. The industry provides a welcome boost to a re-
gion's agricultural economy by increasing the demand
for animals and feed but it is also associated with impair-
ing water quality in rural areas and bringing a host of
social problems for packinghouse communities in the
form of: housing shortages, increases in crime and the
0743-0167/99/$ - see front matter (1999 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.
PII: S 0 7 4 3 - 0 1 6 7 ( 9 9 ) 0 0 0 3 8 - 8
demand for social assistance and special services (Broad-
way, 1990; Stull & Broadway, 1990; Broadway and Stull,
1991; Stull et al., 1992; Broadway et al., 1994; Grey, 1995;
Gouveia and Stull, 1995). This article examines how one
small prairie town has dealt with these problems and
identi"es strategies that towns can use in the future.
Before considering these issues, the shift in meat process-
ing to rural areas is explained along with its environ-
mental impact and the reasons for the social changes that
accompany meatpacking.
2. Structural changes in the North American
meatpacking industry
The current shift from urban to rural plant locations
occurring in Canada's meatpacking industry re#ects
a similar change that began over 30 years ago in the US.
In 1961 Iowa Beef Packers (now known as IBP) opened
a beef processing plant in Denison, Iowa 100 miles north-
west of Des Moines, Iowa. This plant, and subsequent
cost-cutting innovations pioneered by IBP, revolution-
ized the meatpacking industry. Unlike its predecessors,
the plant was located in a small town close to a supply of
fed cattle. It made use of a disassembly line whereby
workers are stationed along a line and repeat the same
operation as each animal passes by (Stull, 1994). This
system proved to be much more e$cient than the gravity
feed system used in old multistoried plants and worker
productivity improved. Accompanying the rise in pro-
ductivity was an increase in worker-related injuries, the
most common being related to repetitive motions. By the
1980s meat packing had become one of the most hazard-
ous industries in North America. Record "nes against the
packers for safety violations by US safety inspectors,
worker training and ergonomic studies have resulted in
recent declines in the injury rate (Broadway, 1999). The
company used the development of the disassembly line to
lower its labour costs by avoiding the terms of the indus-
try-wide master contract, arguing that less skill was re-
quired than in older plants (Newsweek, 1965). By
locating close to a supply of fed cattle, the company was
able to lower its transport costs and reduce the shrinkage
and bruising associated with shipping cattle long distan-
ces. Costs were further reduced by purchasing cattle
directly from farmers and eliminating the middleman.
In 1967 the company introduced boxed beef, whereby
fat and bone are removed at the plant and the meat is cut
to retail speci"cations before being vacuum-packaged for
shipment. This innovation further lowered the company's
costs and enabled them to ship more beef. It appealed to
the retail and hospitality industries which could lower
their costs by not having to hire their own butchers. As
a result, IBP's market share increased. This led to addi-
tional construction of large slaughter capacity plants
close to a supply of fed cattle in small towns in the Great
Plains (Broadway, 1995; Broadway and Ward, 1990).
Most of the towns where IBP has constructed or pur-
chased old plants have populations of less than 25,000
and are isolated from major population centres.
The company's Finney County facility in southwestern
Kansas exempli"es this pattern. It is located in the ham-
let of Holcomb, seven miles west of Garden City and over
200 miles west of Wichita. When the plant opened in
1980, unemployment in the county totaled approxim-
ately 400 persons. This pool of surplus labour was insu$-
cient to sta!a plant that would eventually employ over
2700 workers and so the company recruited workers
from beyond the local region. Other companies emulated
IBP cost-cutting innovations by closing old plants in
urban areas, demanding wage concessions or construct-
ing new large slaughter capacity plants in rural areas
(Broadway, 1995).
In Canada, the e!ects of US cost-cutting began to be
felt in the late 1970s, at the same time per-capita beef
consumption began to decline. The industry responded
to these challenges by shutting down old ine$cient
plants in urban areas and lowering labour costs by
breaking the terms of the nationwide union master con-
tract. In 1984, Burns Meats demanded that workers at
their two oldest plants take a pay cut and accept bargain-
ing on a plant-by-plant basis rather than industry-wide.
Workers responded by striking the company. Eventually
the company won the right to bargain on a plant-by-
plant basis and establish a two-tier wage system for
old and new hires. Other companies followed suit,
implementing similar wage systems after workers struck
their plants. In Brooks, 120 miles southeast of Calgary,
Lakeside Packers lowered its costs by breaking the
union and hiring replacement workers at lower wages
(Noel and Gardner, 1990). Three years after the collapse
of the union master contract, Cargill, the third largest
red meat producer in the United States, announced plans
to construct a state-of-the-art large slaughter capacity
beef processing facility in High River, 30 miles south of
The High River decision was the product of the same
factors behind the shift in US beef slaughter capacity to
the High Plains and a shift in fed cattle production.
Alberta is Canada's leading producer of fed cattle due to
its extensive areas of pasture land and feed grain produc-
tion. In the past, cattle had been shipped by rail to be
"nished in southern Ontario prior to their slaughter, but
with the adoption of boxed beef it was economical for
plants to be located away from their markets and close to
the supply of cattle. When the High River plant opened
in 1989 its wages were lower than surrounding older
urban plants and this led to a new round of plant clos-
ures. In 1994 IBP purchased Lakeside Packers. At the
time of the sale Lakeside employed about 550 persons
and prepared carcasses for markets in Canada and the
United States. Soon after the purchase IBP announced
38 M.J. Broadway /Journal of Rural Studies 16 (2000) 37}46
plans to construct a processing facility for the prepara-
tion of boxed beef and add a second shift which would
necessitate hiring an additional 2000 workers (Broadway,
1998, 1997).
The shift in beefpacking plants to rural areas has been
made possible by innovations in cattle feeding. Center-
pivot irrigation was introduced to the High Plains in the
1960s which allowed for the exploitation of the Ogallala
Aquifer, the cultivation of feed grains and the attraction
of feedlots. Over time, increasing specialization and in-
tensi"cation of production techniques has resulted in an
increase in feedlot size and a decline in numbers. By the
mid-1990s feedlots with a capacity of greater than 32,000
head accounted for over one-third of US fed cattle mar-
ketings (Glover, 1996). The Canadian feedlot industry is
concentrated in Alberta, with over 60% of the country's
fed cattle. Although the average size of feedlots in Alberta
is much smaller than in the United States, the industry is
dominated by a few large producers with feeding capaci-
ties in excess of 6000 head (Alberta Agriculture, 1989).
A similar pattern exists among the Canadian and US
hog industry with production becoming increasingly
concentrated among fewer and larger producers (Glover,
As feedlots and hog-raising operations have expanded
in size, environmental concerns dealing with dust, odor
and surface and groundwater contamination have in-
creased. To be competitive and keep up with demand
organic feed additives are used to stimulate growth and
improve the general health of animals. Non-nutritive
additives such as antibiotics, anti-bacterial drugs and
hormones are associated with increases in the presence of
volatile organic chemicals in animal manure. These vol-
atile compounds are odorous in high concentrations and
hazardous to human health (Addison, 1997). Manure is
typically stored in a tank or lagoon facility to allow the
water content to evaporate before being spread over
"elds but animal waste spills from lagoons have occurred
in several US states and polluted surface waters. More-
over, when manure is applied to "elds at rates above the
nutrient-absorption rates of soils and crops, the danger of
runo!and subsequent groundwater pollution also in-
creases. Indeed, while Canada and the United States have
ample cropland for manure disposal a major constraint is
the cost of transporting the manure from feeding opera-
tions to the cropland. This has the e!ect of creating
manure surpluses in many areas of con"ned livestock
production and adding to the potential for air and water
pollution (Glover, 1996). In Texas, concern over the po-
tential for groundwater contamination from cattle feed-
lots in the High Plains forced the Texas Natural
Resource Conservation Committee in 1987 to revise feed-
lot permit standards to protect groundwater (Sweeten et
al., 1995). Complaints and lawsuits by rural residents
against hog producers in several states have had the e!ect
of encouraging the enforcement of existing federal air and
water quality standards and forced states to restrict new
hog production facilities. A similar situation exists in
Canada where residents of Ontario and Manitoba have
successfully blocked the expansion and construction of
new hog operations in rural areas on environmental
grounds (Haley et al., 1998).
3. Rapid growth and community change
Passage of the 1969 US National Environmental Pol-
icy Act is widely credited with the formal establishment
of social impact assessment as a means of evaluating
a project's impact prior to its implementation (Gramling
and Freudenberg, 1992; Finsterbusch, 1995). It is
predicated on two basic assumptions. First, decision-
makers should be informed about a project's conse-
quences before they commit themselves and second, the
people a!ected by a project should be appraised of its
impact and have an opportunity to design their future.
But there is little agreement as to what constitutes social
impact assessment beyond the general goal of identifying
a project's social consequences. Evaluating the impact of
a project can be completed at a variety of scales ranging
from individuals and families to national and interna-
tional levels. Moreover, a project'se!ects may be felt
prior to its implementation and extend well into the
future. Compounding these di$culties is the fact that
social impact assessment practitioners such as, anthro-
pologists, geographers and sociologists utilize di!erent
methodologies with the result that the technique is less
standardized than environmental impact assessment
(Barrow, 1997).
In predicting the social impact of a meatpacking plant
on a rural community, a useful framework is provided by
studies dealing with the e!ects of rapid and sudden popu-
lation growth on rural energy communities in the west-
ern United States during the 1970s (England and
Albrecht, 1984; Finsterbusch, 1982). Most of the small
towns on the High Plains and Prairies where the meat-
packing industry has moved to over the last 30 years lack
a large pool of surplus labour to meet the demands of an
industry characterized by high employee turnover. When
a plant starts up it is not uncommon for employee turn-
over among line workers to exceed 200% in the "rst year
of operation. Indeed, after a plant has been in operation
for several years, monthly turnover for line workers usu-
ally averages between 6 and 8% (Stull and Broadway,
1995). Packing companies have sought to solve their need
for labour by recruiting the most mobile segments of the
population, new immigrants and young adult single
males. In the United States, South East Asians and
Latinos comprise a large segment of meatpacking's la-
bour force (Gouveia and Stull, 1995). At Cargill's High
River, plant about 80% of line workers are visible minor-
ities with the leading groups consisting of South East
M.J. Broadway /Journal of Rural Studies 16 (2000) 37}46 39
Asians, East Indians, Iraqis, Iranians and Latinos (Hey-
man and Dempster, 1997).
The sudden in#ux of immigrants and high population
turnover creates a host of social problems for communi-
ties including, housing shortages, increases in the de-
mand for special services, such as English as a Second
Language (ESL) instruction, and increases in social dis-
orders and demands for social assistance (Broadway,
1990; Stull and Broadway, 1990; Broadway and Stull,
1991). Similar changes were documented in western en-
ergy boomtowns during the 1970s when migrants #ocked
to small towns in Alberta (Gartrell et al., 1981), Colorado
(Freudenberg, 1981), Wyoming (Gilmore and Du!, 1975)
and Alaska (Dixon, 1978). The theoretical basis for ex-
plaining the increase in social disorders is derived from
the work of social disorganization theorists (Wirth, 1938).
According to this perspective, pre-boom communities are
characterized by stability and social cohesiveness. Social
control and support is maintained by a high `density of
acquaintanceshipsai.e. the proportion of a person's fel-
low community members that are known to a person
(Freudenberg, 1986). A sudden in#ux of population leads
to a reduction in this number which in turn reduces social
interaction, watchfulness and contributes to a sense of
community breakdown and a rise in social disorganiz-
ation. Social isolation among newcomer families has
been identi"ed as a key factor explaining increases in
child abuse and neglect in western energy boomtowns.
Neglectful families have been found to have fewer rela-
tionships with formal groups and fewer informal contacts
with neighbours. This lack of support in a community
experiencing rapid growth is exacerbated by high levels
of residential mobility which also serves to reduce neigh-
boring watchfulness and surveillance. These factors com-
bine to isolate newcomers and for same families this leads
to child abuse (Camasso and Wilkinson, 1990).
High levels of transiency among young, adult, single
males has been identi"ed as a factor behind increases in
the rate of substance abuse among energy boomtowns.
The absence of a stable family environment and the
long-standing acceptance of drinking hard liquor as part
of the frontier way-of-life helps foster an environment
that encourages alcohol abuse. The prevention of sub-
stance abuse is further hampered by the transiency of the
population which facilitates drug tra$cking and makes
enforcement di$cult (Milkman et al., 1980).
Critics of boomtown studies note that most re-
searchers have focused on the evidence of social disor-
ganization and assumed that social interaction declines
with the in#ux of newcomers rather than focusing upon
a causal mechanism linking social interaction with par-
ticular disorders (Krannich and Greider, 1990). Although
there is little evidence linking a causal mechanism to
particular social changes there is plenty of evidence
documenting widespread increases in social disorders
with the arrival of meatpacking plants in rural areas.
4. Meatpacking and social change
Increases in drug and alcohol abuse and an overall
increase in crime in meatpacking towns has been at-
tributed to the recruitment of young, adult, single males,
since this demographic group has the highest incidence of
committing crimes and alcohol consumption (Broadway,
1990; Gouveia and Stull, 1995; McKenzie, 1997). Com-
munities throughout the High Plains and Midwest with
newly opened packing plants report having to hire addi-
tional police o$cers to deal with increasing caseloads.
Five years after IBP opened its Columbus Junction, Iowa
hog-processing plant, police department employment
went from two-full-time o$cers and one part-time o$cer
in 1986 to three full-time and two-part-time o$cers
(Broadway, 1994). In Finney County, Kansas the con-
struction of two new meatpacking plants in the early
1980s was accompanied by a 130% increase in violent
crimes between 1980 and 1985, while population in-
creased by just 33% during the same period. A review of
individual case "les found that most of the increase in
violent crime was attributable to an upsurge in domestic
violence (Broadway, 1990).
Schools are in the forefront of dealing with the impact
of immigrant newcomers as they experience increases in
enrollments and demands for special educational services
such as ESL instruction. At the time that IBP opened
its hog processing plant in Columbus Junction the
number of students enrolled in the local school district's
ESL program was 54, four years later the number was
129. Storm Lake, Iowa which is home to an IBP hog
processing plant, experienced an increase in the number
of Laotian students with limited English pro"ciency from
18 in 1986 to over a 100 in 1990 (Broadway, 1994).
Many newcomers arrive penniless and need immediate
housing and food. In Garden City, Kansas a homeless
shelter was established by area churches in 1979 to deal
with a wave of newcomers drawn by the construction of
a power plant and IBP's Finney County plant. A barom-
eter of the town's economic fortunes and the impoverish-
ed nature of many of the newcomers is found in the
number of meals provided by the shelter; in 1983 the
number was 28,081 by 1988 the number was 69,003. The
sudden demand for housing has usually been alleviated
by large trailer courts which end up becoming newcomer
ghettos (Benson, 1990; Broadway et al., 1994; Broadway,
Some communities have avoided these circumstances
due to their unique situation. High River, Alberta has so
far failed to exhibit many of these changes due to the fact
that over two-thirds of the company's employees reside
in Calgary and commute to the plant. The only plant
employees who live in the town are management and
clerical sta!. The absence of line workers in the town is
explained by the community's shortage of a!ordable
housing for persons with relatively low incomes. High
40 M.J. Broadway /Journal of Rural Studies 16 (2000) 37}46
Table 1
Likely social impacts of a meatpacking plant and recommended com-
munity responses
Impact Response
1. In#ux of visible minorities
and an increase in language
and cultural di!erence
1a. Establish cultural aware-
ness workshops, a Diver-
sity Committee and
provide ESL services
2. Increase in demand for
low-cost housing
2a. Disperse new rental ac-
commodations through-
out the community
3. Increase in crime 3a. Establish the position of
a community liaison o$ce
4. Increase in homeless persons 4a. Provide a shelter
5. Increase in demand for
social services
5a. Create an interagency ser-
vice provider group
6. Increase in demand for
health care
6a. Hire additional health
care professionals and as-
sure the provision of trans-
Source: The impact of Meatpacking Plants on Small Towns: Lessons
to be Learned from the US Experience. Workshop presented at Heri-
tage Inn., Brooks, Alberta. September 1996.
River markets itself as `Alberta's retirement centeraand
has several retiree developments in town. The town has
also bene"tted from its situation relative to Calgary and
has experienced an in#ux of professional households
willing to commute into the city. These two groups have
managed to `bid upathe price of housing beyond the
means of most of Cargill's employees (Broadway, 1998).
5. Preparing for community change
Communities clearly cannot alter the nature of meat-
packing, its relatively low pay, hazardous working condi-
tions or recruiting practices; thus the recommended
community responses are based upon two basic premises,
"rst, social changes are inevitable and second, communi-
ties need to embrace the changes. Once some community
members become aware of the extent of social changes
which have occurred in other meatpacking communities
there is a tendency to see if these problems can be avoid-
ed by preventing newcomer settlement. This tactic delays
the inevitable and has the unintended consequence of
assuring that the development which does eventually
occur is usually of the worst kind. In the early 1980s, IBP
delayed the start-up of its second shift at its Finney
County plant due to a housing shortage in nearby Gar-
den City. The company pressured the city commission
into annexing and rezoning land for a 500 unit trailer
court which ended up accommodating about a tenth of
the town's population, most of whom were newcomers.
This development e!ectively segregated the newcomers
from the host population and served to stigmatize the
inhabitants as undesirables (Benson, 1990).
In the Fall of 1996 the Town of Brooks sponsored
a public workshop entitled, The Impact of Meatpacking
Plants on Small Towns: Lessons to be Learned from the U.S.
Experience. The workshop summarized the various social
and economic changes that occurred in US small towns,
along with the experience of High River and provided
some strategies for dealing with these changes. This in-
formation is summarized in Table 1.
Most small meatpacking towns become multicultural
communities and this multiculturalism should become
a source of pride and cause for celebration (Response 1a).
Instead of con"ning newcomers to large housing devel-
opments such as trailer courts, they should be integrated
into the town's existing physical structure by dispersing
new housing units throughout the community (Response
2a). Recruiting young, adult, single males, the demog-
raphic group with the highest incidence of criminal activ-
ities, assures an increase in crime and alcohol-related
incidents. Some criminal activities however, can be pre-
vented if the community is able to establish clear expecta-
tions for behavior and communicate this information
through a community liaison o$cer to newcomer
groups. Knowledge of the availability of large numbers of
unskilled jobs will spread widely and assure that many
people will move to town looking for work. Many of
these newcomers will arrive without any money and will
need food, shelter and assistance in the event that they
are not hired at the plant or quit soon after they start.
Meeting these needs requires the careful coordination of
services between voluntary and governmental agencies
(Responses 4a, 5a). An increase in population will auto-
matically increase the demand for health care but small
towns in rural areas are typically under-sta!ed with
physicians and other health care professionals, new-
comers only exacerbate this problem by increasing
caseloads. Thus the need to hire additional physicians
and support sta!, while assuring that the needs of non-
English speaking patients will be cared for by providing
translators (Response 6a). Finally, the responsibility for
educating the community about these expected changes
and coordinating responses would be given to a Com-
munity Impact Study Team, consisting of representatives
from governmental and voluntary social service organ-
Although the environmental impact of the beefpacking
plant upon the local region was not discussed at the
Workshop, the increased demand for cattle will result in
the expansion of local feedlots and add to the potential
for air and water pollution. In Alberta expansions or
the construction of new feedlots have to be approved by
local municipalities and citizens have successfully op-
posed such plans in di!erent jurisdictions throughout
North America. But a more pro-active approach is for
citizens, livestock producers, land-use planners and local
politicians to work together to establish guidelines
M.J. Broadway /Journal of Rural Studies 16 (2000) 37}46 41
to govern future development. According to Caldwell
(1998) such an approach would establish an appropriate
livestock density based upon the available land base
and its ability to absorb the disposal of manure.
Minimum separation distances would be established
between livestock uses and non-farm uses and live-
stock producers would be required to "le manure and
nutrient management plans. Such guidelines need to be
established at the international level to prevent the
movement of the industry to areas with weak environ-
mental legislation.
6. Social changes come to Brooks
Two years after the community workshop, Lakeside
hired 1000 workers and will hire another 1000 for the
plant's second shift in 1998. When the company started
hiring at the end of 1996, it initially recruited workers
from southeastern Alberta. With high employee turn-
over, this supply was quickly exhausted and it looked to
new immigrants and unemployed workers from the
Maritime provinces to solve their labour problems. Since
then alcohol-related incidents have increased dramati-
cally in the town. The RCMP report that the number of
persons detained in Brooks because they were so in-
toxicated to the point where they were a danger to
themselves rose from 128 in 1996 to 398 in 1997; while the
number of persons arrested for violating Alberta's liquor
act jumped from 168 to 308 during the same period
(RCMP n.d.). Relations between some Maritime new-
comers and locals have been tense. A brawl between
members of the two groups outside a local bar in the Fall
of 1997 led to an attack by over 100 persons on RCMP
o$cers who were sent to break-up the "ght (Brooks
Bulletin, 1997). These increases in intoxication are also
re#ected in absenteeism at the plant. In early 1998 the
day after pay-days, over 50 workers routinely failed to
report for work because they were incapacitated. Further
evidence of an increase in substance abuse is provided by
a 75% increase in the case load of the Alberta Alcohol
and Drug Abuse Commission in Brooks between the "rst
three months of 1997 and 1998 ("eld notes 9/8/98). Alco-
hol consumption is also a factor behind reported in-
creases in domestic violence cases. Social service workers
report that 2 to 3 times a month they routinely end-up
paying the airfare for a spouse or girlfriend to return to
the Maritimes to escape an abusive relationship, al-
though some women do elect to stay in the community.
Within six weeks of the establishment of a Women's
Shelter in the summer of 1998, eight women had sought
shelter and in each case either they or their partner
worked at Lakeside ("eld notes 9/8/98). The doubling of
child welfare caseloads from 45 in January 1997 to 90 at
the end of the year provides further evidence of the
overall rise in social disorders and is attributable, accord-
ing to social service caseworkers, in part, to the stress of
families living in overcrowded conditions ("eld notes
Some persons drawn to Brooks by word-of-mouth
suggestions of opportunity, arrive in town with insu$-
cient funds, needing shelter and food. Between 1996 and
1997 the number of persons receiving one-time
transitional assistance payments from Alberta Family
and Social Services in Brooks increased by 300%. During
a visit to the local Social Services o$ce, while the author
waited to interview the manager, four young single males
entered the facility over a 20 minute period and made
appointments for transitional assistance. All these indi-
viduals had similar stories; they had no money, had lost
their health insurance cards, needed immediate accom-
modation and were looking for work at Lakeside. The
amount of cash assistance provided to such newcomers is
limited. It does not approach the sum required for a dam-
age deposit on a rental unit, even if such housing were
available. In the summer of 1997, Brooks announced it
had a zero vacancy rate for rental accommodations. This
means that households survive by doubling or tripling up
in units that should only accommodate one household.
The stress of living under these circumstances, coupled
with the stress of moving to a new community and
starting a new job, may also be considered contributory
factors to the increases in alcohol abuse and domestic
violence noted earlier. School enrollment in the Brooks
School District has increased by just 97 students between
Fall 1994 and 1998 (Parker, 1998). The minimal growth
re#ects the shortage of a!ordable housing and the fact
that Lakeside initially targeted young single males in
their recruitment e!ort. The remainder of this article will
outline the town'sdi$culties in dealing with these prob-
lems, despite their advance warning.
7. The Community Impact Study Team
A principal recommendation from the workshop was
for Brooks to establish a Community Impact Study
Team (CIST). The goal of the team is to learn from the
experiences of other packing communities and develop
a coordinated response to the expected changes. Ideally,
such a team consists of representatives from social service
providers, business interests including the packing plant
and local government o$cials. Lexington, Nebraska for-
med such a team immediately after IBP announced plans
to open a beef processing plant in the town. The Commit-
tee was established as a study group without any deci-
sion-making authority and met monthly. Members
traveled to several small towns with meatpacking plants
in Kansas to obtain information about how communities
had dealt with the impact of newly opened meatpacking
facilities. The Committee dissolved itself prior to the
opening of the Lexington facility but not before imple-
42 M.J. Broadway /Journal of Rural Studies 16 (2000) 37}46
menting some preparatory steps including: forming
a Ministerial Association, organizing an inter-agency so-
cial services council, developing cultural awareness
workshops, applying for grants to support the establish-
ment of a homeless shelter and educating the community
about the expected changes (Broadway et al., 1994;
Lexington Community Impact Study Team, 1989).
Guymon, Oklahoma adopted a similar approach to deal
with the impact of a hog processing plant in the early
1990s. The Mayor's Strategic Planning Task Force con-
sisted of 40 community leaders divided into groups that
dealt with the expected impact of newcomers upon: hous-
ing, education, law enforcement, health, social services
and other areas. The Task Force continued to meet after
the plant opened in 1993 and some of the groups were
successful in implementing new programs. A homeless
shelter was established under the leadership of the social
services group, while the education committee estab-
lished an ESL program, an Alternative School for pupils
experiencing di$culties in traditional classroom settings
and led a successful e!ort to pass a local tax increase to
fund the construction of a new elementary school. But
the Task Force'se!orts at providing low-cost housing for
newcomers has proved to be a much more intractable
problem. The experiences of CISTs in Guymon and
Lexington indicate that there is no precise formula for
a community to successfully prepare for social change
beyond a willingness to accept that change is inevitable
and that preparatory steps should be taken.
Brooks established a Community Impact Study Team
under the chairmanship of a member of the Town Coun-
cil in the Fall of 1996. The Team continues to meet on
a monthly basis but unlike Lexington's CIST or
Guymon's Strategic Planning Task Force, it has so far
failed to make any decisive action in terms of preparing
the community for change. The Team serves primarily an
information-sharing function with Lakeside providing
data concerning the number of new hires, turnover, and
origin of the workforce. Team meetings are open to the
public, but on the occasions the author attended, sharply
di!ering perspectives as to the primary function of the
Team were apparent. In the Spring of 1997 a group of
citizens and agency representatives expressed their frus-
tration at the town's lack of progress in attracting devel-
opers for new housing. This led to a full-scale debate
concerning the degree to which the town should provide
developers with incentives to increase investor rate of
return. But more signi"cantly, the debate revealed a deep
division between those persons who viewed Team meet-
ings as a forum for policy formulation and those who
viewed them as an information-sharing forum. This divis-
ion was re#ected in the Chairman's decision to contact
representatives from Alberta Community Development
in Medicine Hat to facilitate these competing perspect-
ives ("eld notes 3/7/97). Despite this intervention no
fundamental change occurred in the operation of the
team. In the meantime outside the con"nes of Team
meetings, social service providers and volunteers work
together to coordinate services. Homeless persons, for
example, who are unable to be seen immediately by
Alberta Family and Social Services caseworkers are au-
tomatically referred to The Salvation Army which pro-
vides shelter for them.
The failure to incorporate a policy formulation role
into the functions of the Team re#ects the Town Coun-
cil's legitimate desire that its role as the arbiter of com-
munity issues not be usurped. But more importantly, it
indicates that local citizens wanting to contribute to
policy formulation need a forum within the town's exist-
ing decision-making structure, rather than the ad hoc
environment of a CIST. Thus towns confronting similar
problems as Brooks would probably be better served if
they adopted a two-stage process in planning for change.
First a Study Team should be established with its pri-
mary function to collect data concerning the experiences
of other towns and how they dealt with rapid change.
Once this function is completed, the Team should be
dissolved and the information incorporated into the
town's existing planning structure. Meeting the housing
needs of newcomers, and how to attract developers,
could be addressed in the same forum as updating the
town's Master Plan. Having a plan does not, however,
guarantee success in dealing with divisive issues as
Brooks's experience in confronting its housing crisis illus-
8. A4ordable housing
In 1995, before the formation of the CIST, the town of
Brooks commissioned an a!ordable housing study. The
report concluded that IBP's hiring 1000 full-time workers
would produce a need for between 900 and 1400 housing
units to be constructed between 1995 and 1997 and that
given the nature of the work force two-thirds of the units
needed to be rental accommodations. It recommended
that a portion of the a!ordable housing market be ad-
dressed by expanding the general supply of housing so
that local people could `move upa, leading to an increase
in vacant rental properties. The study's authors were
optimistic that the town's housing needs could be met,
since the town owned su$cient land and this raised the
possibility for creative joint ventures with developers
such as deferring the payment for the land until its sale to
the consumer (Sturgess Architecture, 1995).
Since 1995, 365 houses have been built (Sillars, 1998),
or about a third of the projected housing needs. More-
over, most of these units are single-family homes and not
rental accommodations. The town'se!orts to attract
rental unit construction have met with little success for
a variety of reasons. Local o$cials attribute the lack of
developer interest to the low rate of return on such
M.J. Broadway /Journal of Rural Studies 16 (2000) 37}46 43
housing, while local residents have successfully opposed
new construction projects such as allowing basement
rental suites in a new subdivision. Critics argue that the
town has not done enough to make it attractive to
outside investors ("eld notes 3/7/97).
Although there is no clear explanation as to why the
town has been unable to attract a!ordable housing; the
consequences are readily apparent. By early 1999 over
a 1000 of the plant's workers live in Medicine Hat and
surrounding communities. While this disperses problems
it also results in a signi"cant loss of economic bene"ts to
the town's local businesses. To deal with the housing
shortage Lakeside erected dormitory-style housing for
162 single persons at the plant. The housing is sur-
rounded by a chain-link and barbed wire fence. There is
no regularly scheduled public transportation into town,
and renters are given vouchers so they can eat at the
plant's cafeteria. The intent is clearly a short-term "x.
Workers are discouraged from long-term stays by a slid-
ing rental fee which increases over time. The cost of the
vouchers and rent are automatically deducted from
a worker's wages, which coupled with any initial equip-
ment costs incurred makes it extremely di$cult to save
for the damage deposit for a rental unit. In short, the only
way for IBP employees to a!ord housing in Brooks
under current circumstances is to share the cost with
others. Unfortunately, as the preceding section on
social change indicated, this creates its own set of social
The consultants'recommended strategy of building
housing at the top end of the market in the hope of
producing a vacancy chain and freeing up rental units at
the bottom has so far failed to meet the community's
housing needs. At the same time, however, none of the
recommended innovative strategies to attract developers
appear to have been tried either. This suggests that an
important element for a community to successfully adapt
to change is for its leaders to "rst recommend, and then
implement sometimes controversial strategies. In Brooks,
this might take the form of letting developers have city-
owned land at below market value, in order to attract
developers and increase their rate of return.
9. Celebrating diversity
The recruiting practices of the packers ensure that
most towns will eventually experience an in#ux of new
immigrants. In Lakeside's case the presence of increasing
numbers of immigrants led to the provision in Fall 1998
of an on-site immigration service for newly recruited
workers. The principal newcomer groups at the plant are
Iraqis, Somalis, Ethiopians, Filipinos, Cambodians and
Bosnians. Most are males between the ages of 20 and 40.
Many immigrants who used the immigration service
sought advice on how to proceed with family reuni"ca-
tion thereby ensuring a continued in#ux of newcomers.
Indeed an emerging social issue for Brooks is the isola-
tion of Iraqi women who stay-at-home and only go out in
the company of their husband ("eld notes 9/22/98).
Many newcomers do not speak English and have
adi!erent cultural background from the host population.
These di!erences can often lead to misunderstandings. In
April 1997 several Muslim employees at the plant were
"red for walking o!the line in order to meet their
obligation for daily prayer. To reduce the likelihood of
such incidents occurring the workshop recommended
establishing a Diversity Committee. The Committee pro-
vides an opportunity for the host community and new-
comers to learn about each other's culture. Membership
of the committee is drawn from CIST organizations
along with newcomer representatives and service organ-
izations. The goal of the committee is to foster a `wel-
coming and accepting environmenta, by such means as
providing translation services, sponsoring ethnic celebra-
tions and identifying unmet needs among the newcomer
The combination of these common-sense activities can
address the high population turnover that plagues meat-
packing communities. According to Calgary's Catholic
Immigration Service's manager of Employment and
Training, Iraqi clients who viewed an IBP recruiting
video in Arabic and undertook an orientation program
were far less likely to leave or be "red than Iraqis who
were hired directly at the plant ("eld notes 1/5/98). At the
end of 1997, community groups in Brooks formed an
organization entitled the Community of Friends to serve
as a forum for dialogue between newcomers and long-
term residents but it is too early to determine its success
in facilitating communications between the two groups.
10. Conclusions and recommendations
The industrialization of agriculture confronts residents
of rural communities with a variety of environmental,
economic and social problems. To deal with these issues
requires a pro-active response. Protecting the environ-
ment and ensuring a sustainable agricultural system re-
quires that rural areas establish municipal by-laws or
agricultural zoning to limit the number of livestock that
can be concentrated in one area. Such standards would
be based upon the carrying capacity of the local environ-
ment and involve a consideration of the amount of crop
land for manure disposal, soil type and rainfall.
For many small towns, the prospect of a manufacturing
facility employing thousands of workers, with its related
economic spino!s, would seem particularly alluring.
But as this example from the meatpacking industry
illustrates, the nature of the jobs may also have a signi"-
cant impact upon a town's social fabric. Communities
must therefore consider the social costs of economic
44 M.J. Broadway /Journal of Rural Studies 16 (2000) 37}46
development as well as its bene"ts. A single small town is
powerless to alter the nature of an industry, yet it must
deal with its human consequences or, at worst, it risks
endangering the lives of workers and their family mem-
bers by failing to provide shelter and food. Small towns
must acknowledge that social change is inevitable and
that planning for change is a more desirable option than
having changes thrust upon them by companies whose
primary interests are in sta$ng the plant and having it
run at full capacity.
The social changes that are associated with the open-
ing of meatpacking plants are well documented, but
planning for these changes can be problematic. In
Brooks, CIST members were well aware of what changes
to expect but were powerless to develop any policy re-
sponses because the organization lacked any decision
making authority. In the future, information gathered by
a CIST needs to be channeled to the appropriate deci-
sion-making body within a town, thereby ensuring the
legitimacy of any decisions and the full consultation of
the local community. No system can guarantee innova-
tive and enlightened policy responses, particularly if
there is an unwillingness on the part of the community to
recognize that change is inevitable.
Outside a town's governmental framework, indi-
viduals and voluntary organizations can make a signi"-
cant di!erence to the lives of newcomers by being
open-minded and o!ering a variety of assistance includ-
ing: the public recognition and celebration of new-
comer cultures and practical services such as translators
and ESL instruction. The subtitle of this article is
Trying to Avoid the Slaughterhouse Blues; the reality is
that the Blues cannot be avoided. They can, however, be
ameliorated to some degree by a combination of en-
lightened institutional and individual responses to social
This research was made possible by grants from
Northern Michigan University's College of Arts and
Sciences and the Canadian Government's Canadian
Studies Faculty Research Program, Washington DC.
The author is grateful for the insightful and helpful com-
ments of two anonymous referees.
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The contemporary American rural landscape reflects a mix of ongoing economic changes in agricultural land use, population change, and built environments. The mix depends on past and recent change which represent landscapes of memory and silence to those experiencing economic and demographic renaissance. We develop a typology of five stages that reflect the contemporary rural scene and conduct field transects in Northwest Iowa and Central Maine. Features of the dynamics in rural America are evident in photographs of residences, land use changes, and commercial structure. The study calls for additional studies on rural settlement populations, economies, and society in different environmental settings.
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The study was conducted to assess the attitude and awareness of a sample of people regarding the indiscriminate slaughter and its effects on health and the environment compared with slaughtering in a slaughterhouse. The sample consisted of 120 persons from six equal professional groups contacted with the butchery labour (livestock keeper, truck driver, butcher, veterinarian, shopkeeper and consumer). The age ranged 22-76 years old, mean 52±10 years, lived ≥ 5 years in the Baghdad city. The results showed that there is a preference for slaughtering inside the slaughterhouse due to the presence of veterinary examination, slaughtering and preparing meat in a healthy, easy-to-clean places, unlike the indiscriminate slaughter that took place on the sidewalks of streets or in front of butchers' shops or at the entrances of their homes in front of people and passers-by. The results also showed that there is a great spread of the indiscriminate slaughter phenomenon throughout Baghdad governorate, coinciding with the lack of health awareness, lack of attention by citizens, weak monitoring authorities, and a great waste of secondary waste resulting from indiscriminate slaughter, such as leather, wool and blood.
The chapter traces the selective growth but more common reality of demographic and economic decline of small centres across New Zealand which have suffered from outmigration, loss of state funding, and changing market opportunities. The impact of neo-liberalism and the associated loss of state support has been felt acutely in many settlements. In general terms towns which developed from the exploitation of primary products – timber and minerals, and manufacturing are declining, while towns which rely on tourism or are home to commuters are growing rapidly; while rural service towns are in a static position. Since less public money is available for educational and health services, such small settlements risk disappearing from the map. Only towns developing strong local policies to promote local growth and training and to remain attractive for potential immigrants stand a chance of survival. Community initiatives have so far proven valuable to save small towns from total decline, but not all places have the local capacity to initiate such action.