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February 13, 2024 47 mins

There was a brief period in America’s history – after people left the farm to work in the city and before the government started regulating it – when there was a total, lawless free-for-all in the food industry. Things were bad. Really, really bad.

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Episode Transcript

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Speaker 1 (00:01):
Welcome to Stuff you should Know, a production of iHeartRadio.

Speaker 2 (00:11):
Hey, and welcome to the podcast. I'm Josh, and there's
Chuck and Jerry's here too, and we're just stuff you
should know in it, doing some stuff you should know,
kind of stuff on the Stuff you should know podcasts.

Speaker 3 (00:21):
Yeah, yeah, Hey, can I make.

Speaker 1 (00:24):
A couple of quick announcements?

Speaker 2 (00:26):
Oh boy, is it a correction about me?

Speaker 3 (00:29):
No, that's a listener mail. Okay, just a couple of
quick things. Firstly, I have had my front tooth implant redone,
So the next roughly eighty episodes might be a little
lispy here and there.

Speaker 2 (00:49):
Can you say sibilants, sibilants?

Speaker 1 (00:52):
It's actually more f's.

Speaker 2 (00:54):
Can you say fibilants fibilance.

Speaker 1 (00:57):

Speaker 3 (00:58):
Sometimes air just shoots out of that a little toothhole
tooth the thh at the end. That's problematic. So you know,
here we are again everyone, and bear with it. And
I appreciate your support.

Speaker 2 (01:12):
You can't even tell Chuck like, had you not said something,
maybe one person would have noticed. I think it's fine.

Speaker 1 (01:19):
I appreciate that.

Speaker 3 (01:21):
Well, yeah, but you'll have some some words you will
stand out. The other quick one is just for this
episode massive CoA trigger warning any vegetarians or vegans or
really anybody who is just grossed out by gross food stuff.

Speaker 1 (01:40):
This is choc bowl.

Speaker 2 (01:42):
Yeah. If you find the human body and the stuff
it can do odious two, you might want to just
be prepared. Yeah, all right, So that was good, good
CoA buddy. Yeah, because we are talking about what things
were like before America started regulating the meat that we
bought in ate and it turns out it was a

total free for all until then. But it was really
just kind of nestled in a short period. Yeah, you
know where like the Second Industrial Revolution happened and all
of a sudden, everybody moves to the cities and you
can't buy your bacon from the guy down the street anymore,
or make your own milk or whatever. You have to
buy it. And so these companies sprung up to supply

that stuff and they started cutting corners immediately.

Speaker 3 (02:30):
Yeah, it's the American way time and time again. We've
seen from the very beginning corporate interest, corporate lobby all
in the name of profit. And this isn't just US railing.
This is the history of the United States.

Speaker 2 (02:46):
Yes, for sure, most of them are advertisers on stuff
you should know too, probably so so people needed this
stuff and if they filled a void, like it was
a necessary thing that they were doing. But the problem
is because there's zero regulation, I mean none, Like there
was an author named Deborah Blum, and she wrote The

Poison Squad colon One chemist's single minded crusade for safety
at the turn of the twentieth century, and she said
that there was nothing that could be done to food
that was illegal because there were no food safety laws.
There was nothing you could do aside from kill your customers.
And even then you might just get some bad press

and everybody's like, oh, well it happens.

Speaker 1 (03:33):

Speaker 3 (03:33):
I wonder if it was because they just assumed that
these new corporations would just sort of deliver food the
right way, or I just don't wonder if it was
naivete I mean, eventually it was. Obviously stuff started coming
out as we'll see in this episode, and Congress, you know,
bows down to the donors, as they still do today.

But I just wonder what they thought at first, just like, no,
this is great, and you know, they're supplying more food
and I'm sure they're doing it right.

Speaker 2 (04:04):
My take on it is because this is like set
largely in the Gilded Age, that there was a general
like hands off approach like, hey, this business is zooming
this economy into the stratosphere. Sure, and we don't want
to interfere with it, and I'm sure they're going to
do the right thing anyway.

Speaker 1 (04:22):
Yeah, that's a good point.

Speaker 2 (04:24):
So that's my take. I think that there was a
combination of not really realizing that we needed regulations because
we never needed them before, and then not wanting to
meddle with this red hot economic engine that was flaming,
just with so many flames.

Speaker 1 (04:39):
Yeah, flames on the side of your base.

Speaker 3 (04:41):
Yeah, so I guess we should start with milk, huh.

Speaker 2 (04:45):
Yeah, why not? Because it was pretty bad stuff.

Speaker 1 (04:47):
Yeah, it was.

Speaker 3 (04:49):
Pasturization had been around for a long time. It was
a minute in the eighteen fifties, but they didn't get
on the widespread pasturization of milk till about the eighty
or so years later. So if you went and bought
your milk, you know, I think the understanding for a
lot of people is like, oh, well, back then you
would buy your milk from the local dairy, right, and

it was that's way better just to get it fresh
from the teat like that, and that was not true
because this milk was nasty. It was killing babies. Four
hundred thousand babies a year from drinking bad milk.

Speaker 2 (05:27):
In America alone. That's not a global stat that's just
in the United States.

Speaker 1 (05:30):
Yeah, unbelievable.

Speaker 2 (05:32):
Yeah, it is.

Speaker 1 (05:34):
It is.

Speaker 2 (05:34):
It's nuts. So everybody's like, yeah, this just happens. But
I guess people just thought that's what happened when you
drink milk sometimes, or I don't know what the thinking was. Yeah,
But a guy named John Newell Hurdi h R t Y.
He became the chief Health Officer of Indiana in eighteen
ninety six, and we should say by this time, just
kind of to give it some context, the pure food movement,

which was a progressive movement in the nineteenth century, along
with like temperance, suffrage, abolition, it had really kind of
started to gain steam. So this guy wasn't laying the groundwork,
but his work was very noteworthy. But he became the
chief Health Officer of Indiana and he immediately started investigating
the state's dairy farms and found what they were doing

is what was killing, you know, infants who were being
fed cow's milk.

Speaker 3 (06:25):
Yeah, it was because it was cow's milk that was
watered down so they could stretch profits. But it was
watered down. It's not like they had some beautiful filtration
system from a Poland spring.

Speaker 2 (06:36):

Speaker 1 (06:36):
Actually, I don't even know what a Poland spring is.

Speaker 2 (06:39):
It's a specific spring. It is ironically not in Poland.

Speaker 1 (06:42):
I had a feeling so they weren't using that.

Speaker 3 (06:45):
Of course, they were using like the farm's pond water,
which was disgusting. It was stagnant at one point, like
he literally held up a bottle of milk from Indiana
and saw actual worms inside of it.

Speaker 2 (07:00):
Yeah, isn't that awful?

Speaker 1 (07:01):
Live worms they were moving.

Speaker 2 (07:03):
Yeah, and that wasn't all he found. He found insects, hares, blood, pus,
cow manure. He estimated that just the residents of Indianapolis
ingested about two thousand pounds of cow manure every year,
just from the milk they were drinking.

Speaker 3 (07:17):
Yeah, that's collective, not each person, of course, but that's
still a lot of I.

Speaker 2 (07:22):
Think you would ode on cowpoop if you ate that much.

Speaker 1 (07:25):
Or maybe it would make you into like a superhero.

Speaker 2 (07:28):
There is another really gross one that Dave turned up.
I think it was originally in an Atlantic article about
the early days of milk. But one of the things
that they would do so like if you thinned milk
with water, it was very clearly thinned it. It didn't
look like milk it because it was bluish gray. So
they put like chalk or flour or plaster of Paris in.

Not great, but still it gets much worse. You also,
when you got a bottle of milk, expected the cream
to still be there on top. The cream rises to
the top, as they say, right, well, if you've been
watering down your milk, there probably isn't much cream left
in it, but you need to put that cream back in.
There's something that looks like it. So they said, aside
from stagnant pond water, what else do I have on

the farm that's basically free that I'm not using that
I can use for this? Oh yeah, these little calves
that I'm slaughtering and selling is veal. I could use
their brains impure because it has kind of a creamy texture,
and that will stand in for the cream that I'll
put on top of the watered down milk that I'm
selling in the bottle.

Speaker 3 (08:28):
Yeah, so that is a horrifying thing to hear. Yeah,
with human ears, we should point out that wasn't It
wasn't like everybody was doing that. This is like an
example of you know, who knows, it could have been
one farm. But what they did find out what was
being used widespread and just sort of with regularity in

the industry was using formaldehyde to preserve milk pre pasteurization,
which is you know, we all know it's an embalming
chemical used for dead bodies to make them last longer.
And this was literally killing babies if you were a
kid in Indianapolis in an orphanage, or actually anywhere in

the United States. They didn't have a baby formula back then.
You can listen to our episode on do we do
one just on baby formula?

Speaker 2 (09:17):
Yeah, one on formula and one on the breast.

Speaker 3 (09:20):
I think, oh, that's right. I thought there was two
on the breast, but it was too total. That wasn't
trying to be funny.

Speaker 2 (09:27):
There, Well, it was hilarious.

Speaker 3 (09:30):
They would you know, you would get cow's milk as
a little bebie in an orphanage, so it would you know,
it would it would kill a kid very quickly if
you're drinking formaldehyde.

Speaker 2 (09:41):
Right, Yeah, it doesn't take much for a little infant, right,
And it's apparently one of those things I read that
it's it will just kill you, like almost immediately if
you ingest the right amount. So it's not good. And
even if it doesn't kill you right away, it's it's
not a pleasant way to die. And again, four hundred
thousand babies a year we're dying in the United States

just from bad milk. So it was definitely more than
just one one dairy farm in Indiana. It was a
widespread problem.

Speaker 1 (10:09):

Speaker 3 (10:10):
Oh, absolutely, So you know that's hero number one. Hero
number two also comes to us from Indiana.

Speaker 2 (10:17):
Wait, wait, before we move on, you got to tell
him that great, great quote from doctor Herdy.

Speaker 3 (10:23):
Oh, I thought it was kind of smarmy. Sure, I
guess he had the right to be smarmy. A reporter
asked if formaldehyde and milk was dangerous, and he said, well,
I guess it's all right if you want to embalm
the baby.

Speaker 2 (10:37):
That didn't strike me as smarmy.

Speaker 1 (10:39):
Is it smarmy for the nineteen twenties or whatever?

Speaker 2 (10:42):
I guess, But he's he's saying like that's what the
milk producers are doing. They're embalming babies.

Speaker 3 (10:47):
Yeah, I just I don't know. I thought a man
of science would say it is extremely dangerous.

Speaker 2 (10:53):
I see, you know, I see, yeah, I get so.

Speaker 3 (10:56):
Still a hero, a little smarmy maybe, but who is
to spare him?

Speaker 1 (11:01):
The second hoo's your.

Speaker 3 (11:02):
Hero that's coming in is a gentleman named doctor Harvey
Washington Wiley. In the eighteen eighties, he got to be
in his bonnet about the problem with food.

Speaker 1 (11:14):
He was a boiler.

Speaker 3 (11:15):
Maker professor there at Purdue, and then the USDA, the
fairly new USDA, said all right, we're going to start
a Bureau of Chemistry, and you're the guy that's going to.

Speaker 1 (11:26):
Run it, right he was.

Speaker 2 (11:30):
He essentially dedicated his entire adult life and career to
fighting for like making the American food market wholesome. Essentially,
like that's what that guy did. And he actually had
a bit of the showman in him. He had a
huge ego. Apparently, most of the people who were talking
about today had enormous egos, and they rubbed up against

one another, and even though they didn't like one another,
most of them they still managed to work together to
affect real change. Which is kind of a cool little
hats off to everybody. So one of the first things
that doctor Wiley did when the USDA hired him to
run the Bureau of Chemistry, which apparently was a new
department at the time. This is in the I think

the eighteen eighties or the late nineteenth century at the
very least, he started testing syrup and jam and all
sorts of stuff. I'm not quite sure if he was
doing it to compare because he was actually researching corn
syrup at the time, to find out if this was
actually okay to use as a food because there was
that whole pure food movement was like, hey, I don't

know what we're putting into our food to preserve it,
Like we didn't used to do that ten years ago
before everybody moved to the city. I'm not sure how
I feel about this. So doctor Wiley's job was to
find out if these things were actually harmful or if
you could use them. One of the first things he
found out was that most of the maple syrup and
the honey, like ninety percent of the honey was fake.

There wasn't a drop of honey in it.

Speaker 3 (12:57):
Yeah, it was corn syrup. They would flavor a little
bit with maple. For the syrup, they would flavor it
like whatever fruit.

Speaker 1 (13:05):
I guess. For jam, I'm not sure what they flavored
it with.

Speaker 2 (13:08):
For honey, I don't know either, Like how would you
take a bite and be like, this is honey?

Speaker 1 (13:14):
I guess, I don't know.

Speaker 3 (13:16):
But that was just sort of a jumping off point
where he was like, well, wait a minute, if they're
doing this to honey and maypay syrup, we need to
start looking into other things. And he started to learn
about formaldehyde in foods. Borax, which is a it's a cleaner,
you know, like boric acid cleaner under the brand. I

think it was a brand, wasn't it Borax?

Speaker 1 (13:39):

Speaker 2 (13:39):
I think it was like twenty Mule team Borax.

Speaker 1 (13:43):
Oh, that kind of thing.

Speaker 2 (13:44):
Was the name. That was the name of the brand.

Speaker 3 (13:47):
But he started realizing this stuff was in our food.
He got obviously pretty upset about it and goes to Congress,
and Congress is not interested in passing anything because, as
you will see, just like you know the things that
go on today, the food lobby was strong and rich
and powerful, and Congress sat on their hands.

Speaker 2 (14:07):
Yeah that. Author Deborah Blum also said that like there
was no political will, not just because they were in
the pockets of like the food producers. They a lot
of them, most certainly were, and basically all of them
were getting money from them at the very least. But
that also if you introduced one of these bills, you
were like a crackpot. You were a quack. You were

you had no idea, right, you had no idea what
it meant to like be in the business world. You
were just a dummy. That's how. That's how these things
were reviewed. And I think something like a hundred or something.
I think like more than one hundred bills were introduced
and just within a decade or so, and only like
eight or nine of them managed to get passed. Yeah,

that's how that's how looked down upon the idea of
food regulation was at the time.

Speaker 1 (14:56):

Speaker 3 (14:56):
So Wiley is a pretty smart guy, he said, He's
kind of had a little bit of showman quality to him.
So he got together an experiment, also sort of a
PR stunt. In nineteen oh two, he took twelve government
clerks and put them in housing in the basement of
the Agricultural Department building there in DC, and they were

exposed to what they called Hygienic Table trials, where half
of these young men were secretly fed formaldehyde, borax, sodium benzonate,
all kinds of nasty chemicals like the stuff that was
going in food, and it was conveniently leaked to the
press and doctor Wiley. They were called the Poison Squad,

and doctor Wiley was dubbed Old Borax.

Speaker 2 (15:43):
Yeah, so he he actually became a national figure, like
people like just as the average American knew about him.
If you read the newspaper, you probably were familiar with doctor.

Speaker 1 (15:54):
Wiley, the old Borax, old Borax.

Speaker 2 (15:57):
And we talked about him in the Poison Squad in
I think that does the FDA Protect Americans episode? Yeah,
just kind of briefly, But I mean that whole book
that Deborah Blum wrote was about doctor Wiley and the
Poison Squad and the work he did amazing, and Wiley
definitely deserves a lot of credit. He gets less credit
than he probably should get because around that time people

started to kind of look at Teddy Roosevelt, as we'll see,
as the person who really got the legislation pushed through.
But it probably would not have happened it when it
did without doctor Wiley. But in addition to doctor Wiley,
there was also Teddy Roosevelt and another guy, a muck
ranking journalist, a socialist named Upton Sinclair, and those two

were considered to be some real driving forces behind food
regulation in America.

Speaker 1 (16:49):
Absolutely, you know what that means.

Speaker 2 (16:53):
It means that it's time for a message break.

Speaker 1 (16:57):

Speaker 3 (16:57):
It means I'm going to go try and find a
tiny chick lit it to shove into my tooth hole.

Speaker 2 (17:02):
You should just switch the colors once in a while.

Speaker 1 (17:05):
Aaron Cooper has my flipper.

Speaker 2 (17:08):
Oh yeah, that's right, man, quite a gift.

Speaker 3 (17:10):
I don't think it would fit now anyway. Okay, So
don't feel bad, Coop. Just keep praying to that thing
every night and it'll be okay.

Speaker 1 (17:17):
So weird, all right, we'll be right back, all right.

Speaker 3 (17:40):
So we left off with quite a teaser that a
gentleman named Teddy Roosevelt and a socialist writer named Upton
Sinclair would change the course of America.

Speaker 1 (17:49):
And boy did they.

Speaker 3 (17:51):
A little background on Teddy Roosevelt just because it really
applies here to how he got sort of swept up
in all this. To begin with, he was a soldier.
He led the rough riders and the invasion of Spanish
held Cuba. And the reason that is important to this
story is because that invasion and that whole war was

a lot of Americans died, but not from the battle itself.
I think about four hundred Americans died in combat, but
about fifty five hundred died from disease, from malaria and
dysentery and typhoid. So President McKinley, after the war started,
just a big military commission to investigate what it was

like to be a soldier in all these awful conditions.
And that very key to this story included the food.

Speaker 1 (18:41):
That they ate.

Speaker 2 (18:42):
Yeah, because there was at least among the people who
had fought in the Spanish American War, there was this
awareness that the roast beef, especially the canned roast beef
god that had been delivered as rations. Yeah. Yeah, you're
walking a fine line just even attempting canned roast beef, Right,
it better be good. This was so not good. It

was it was like it would make you immediately start vomiting.
According to Teddy Roosevelt, Yeah, they called it embalm meek
because some of it was clearly rotted. But then they'd
added formaldehyde. This wasn't even like, Okay, this is fresh meat,
we're gonna add formaldehyde. They would put the formaldehyde in
after it was rotted to try to counteract the.

Speaker 1 (19:22):
Rod you know, to bring it back to life.

Speaker 2 (19:24):
Exactly to frankenstein it up. And they found that that, Yeah,
when you ate the stuff, it didn't matter what you
did to cook it or anything like that. It would
just make you throw up or just start pooping your pants,
like almost immediately. And Teddy Roosevelt and all the other
veterans of the Spanish American War were pretty miffed about this.
So when Roosevelt got the chance to go testify for Congress,

he was the governor of New York by this time,
about that beef, that tinned beef, he definitely took the chance,
or took the opportunity.

Speaker 3 (19:55):
Yeah, he called that canned beef a disgrace to our
country and also had a little testimonial description when the
cans were opened to the top was nothing more than
a layer of slime. It was disagreeable looking, that's putting
it mildly and nasty. Sometimes we stowed it with potato
and onions. But I could have eaten my hat stewed

with potato and onions rather than the beef. Nearly all
the men sickened after eating it.

Speaker 2 (20:22):
Yeah, isn't that cross?

Speaker 1 (20:24):

Speaker 3 (20:24):
Any you know, like you said, by this time, I
mean he was already a war hero, but governor of
New York, he has you know, some clout all of
a sudden.

Speaker 2 (20:32):
For sure. Yeah. He was fairly well known enough that
when McKinley stood for reelection in nineteen hundred, he chose
Teddy Roosevelt as his running mate. Yeah, and he was
still young. I think he was forty two. Less than
a year into the second McKinley administration, McKinley was assassinated

and died, and so suddenly Teddy Roosevelt, the vice president,
is president, and he became the youngest president in history.
K was forty three, Roosevelt was forty two. And it's
really weird. It's one of those moments in history where
the right person happens to be in the right place
to really make things happen that seemed intractable before.

Speaker 1 (21:17):

Speaker 2 (21:17):
And I don't know enough about Teddy Roosevelt to fully
sing his praises, but from what I can tell, just
the brief stuff I've read about him researching this. He
was a really interesting, level headed dude, at least as
far as balancing the interests of the United States went.

Dare I say that, Well he was.

Speaker 3 (21:42):
He figured big in the foundation of our national parks.

Speaker 2 (21:45):
So that was a big part. But also like in
this specifically, he saw a very important need that needed
to be filled, which was the meat producers, but the
food producers in general, the meat producers in particular needed regularly.
They were doing some nasty stuff, he found out, and
he went to Congress and was like, make this happen.

If you don't make it happen, I'm going to basically
expose all of you who are in the pockets of
this beef trust as they call it, the Big five
beef producers, which included Armor, Swift, and Libby. Who are
all three still around making meat in the United States.

Speaker 3 (22:19):
Yeah, but you know his hands were even as president,
tied by Congress and the lobby.

Speaker 1 (22:26):
Until that is.

Speaker 3 (22:28):
Our final hero of the day comes along a gentleman
named Upton Sinclair, like you said, a hardcore socialist and
a writer who wrote the very very famous book The
Jungle about well most people, if they've never read the
Jungle would probably say, yeah, it's about exposing the meat

packing in Chicago, right, But fourteen I'm sorry, fifteen pages
really covered that meatpacking disgust that we are going to
have to talk about.

Speaker 1 (22:58):
So just get ready.

Speaker 3 (23:00):
The book was really about an immigrant worker who comes
to America and has sort of just stopped on by
capitalism because again, he was a socialist and this was
his cause.

Speaker 1 (23:13):

Speaker 2 (23:13):
Yeah, So in the end of the book, the worker
who's I think only identified as Urgis j u Rgis,
he just keeps getting like, he loses his family, he
loses essentially anything good to his life by being ground
through the gears of capitalism. And on the other side,
he comes out and finds that socialism is the answer
and starts dedicating himself to building a socialist paradise or whatever. Right.

So that was, like you said, the point of the book.
But when America read this book, they did not pay
any attention to that socialist message at all. In fact,
plenty of them ignored the fact that there was an
overt socialist message and still read the book and got
something out of it. And what they got was those
fifteen pages of disgusting descriptions of what was going on

in Chicago's meatpacking district where essentially all of the beef
and pork and I guess sheep mutton was processed this
one area and just where they kept the live live
stock before slaughter, just when they arrived by train and

put them into a pen. Just that pen, chuck was
a square mile big.

Speaker 3 (24:27):
Yeah, it was known as packing town. And in order
to get this information, he went undercover. He spent seven
weeks posing as a worker in this meatpacking district, which
was like I said, it's called packing town, but it
was in the heart of the Union stockyards, and like
you said, they would bring in by train. It was

the most efficient system on earth for processing animals. Ten
thousand cattle, ten thousand hogs, five thousand sheep a day
coming in being processed. They were doing I think they
were going through eighteen million animals a year at this
point because of a very innovative new system called assembly

line work, which is you know, we know what it
is now, but back then it was kind of revolutionary.
And that they would put make one person do one
job and one job only, all day long, for twelve
hours a day, and as fast as they could.

Speaker 2 (25:23):
Yeah, and if you screwed up. The four men would
be like, you had one job.

Speaker 3 (25:28):
Yeah, don't get your finger cut off and put into
a sausage.

Speaker 2 (25:33):
Yeah, so that would happen, right. They would use everything
they could from the animal. Apparently there was a widely
known phrase that was used there that they used everything
about the hog except for the squeal just haunting.

Speaker 1 (25:48):

Speaker 3 (25:48):
Well, I want to point out though, like not in
the way that like an ethical master chef wants to
use or a hunter that you know, provides meat for
their family tries to use every you know, good edible
part of the animal.

Speaker 1 (26:04):
That's a different deal.

Speaker 3 (26:05):
We're talking about like you know, grinding up hoofs for
you know, filler exactly.

Speaker 2 (26:11):
Yeah, I'm glad you pointed that out right.

Speaker 1 (26:13):

Speaker 2 (26:15):
So when he wrote The Jungle, he interviewed, first of all,
he witnessed what he wrote about firsthand. But he said,
like I did not I did not like exaggerate this stuff.
This is not me embellishing, Like I witnessed this firsthand.
And the stuff that I didn't witness firsthand, I interviewed
people who witnessed it firsthand. Yeah, and so he's like,
this stuff in the book is real. People and we

haven't even really kind of cracked into what was in
those fifteen pages. I say we do that.

Speaker 1 (26:41):
Now, should we take a break into it.

Speaker 2 (26:44):
I think that's a fine idea.

Speaker 1 (26:45):
Chuck, all right, we'll be right back.

Speaker 2 (27:08):
Okay, Chuck, So we're back. It's time to get into
the grizzly details of the jungle. There's some pretty famous
stuff in there, just because it just it got out
so far and wide. It was a very widely read
book and an even more widely discussed book because of
the disgust that it generated. But for example, when they

when they generated when they created sausage, like Upton Sinclair
told everybody how the sausage is made, and everybody's like,
we didn't want to know, but now we know, and
we can't unknow it. They would grind up moldy sausage
that had been rejected from Europe so it was bad
when it got to Europe, and then they shipped it
back to America, and then they used it in the

sausage they fed Americans. That stuff would also be mixed
in with scraps of meat that had been shoveled off
of the floor. Probably at that couple of times a day,
they would shovel meat scraps and flesh and blood off
of the floor put it into the sausage mixture. That's
bad enough that it was on the floor, but the
workers frequently had things like tuberculosis and they were spitting

bloody tuberculotic spit onto the floor, so that would get
mixed in with the food scraps, the meat scraps that
would be put into the sausages. There was a rat
problem there, so they would put out poison pieces of
bread for the rats, and then when the rats ate
the bread and died, they put the rats in the sausage.
And then furguod measure, they put the poison bread in

the sausage too. This was just the sausage that they
were making.

Speaker 3 (28:40):
Yeah, Like I get the feeling that there was. If
there was a poster on the wall of this workplace,
it was if it's on the floor, it's in the sausage.

Speaker 2 (28:50):
Yeah, for sure.

Speaker 3 (28:52):
Tobacco spit, That's that's probably the best thing you could
hope for.

Speaker 2 (28:57):
Yeah, you being a flavor tobacco spit.

Speaker 3 (28:59):
Yeah, if anyone's still listening, you know, obviously potted meats,
you know, mystery meat is kind of a funny thing
to say these days, but back then it was truly dangerous.
It was you know, organ meats, It was tripe. This
is a quote, and it's hard for me to even

say this word for because of my tooth and because
it's disgusting. But the hard car cardalin is cardlinagenus, cartilaginous, cartilaginous. Yeah,
there we go, hard cartilaginous gullets of beef after the
tongues had been cut out, was in this potted meat
as well.

Speaker 2 (29:40):
Yeah, and the potted chicken in particular. It always appears
in quotes because it was later determined there was no
chicken at all in the potted chicken. It was just,
like you said, every piece of the animal they could use,
not for ethical purposes, but because they could sell it
as potted chicken and tell everybody, yeah, it's just ground
up chicken, just to eat it and shut up.

Speaker 3 (29:59):
Yeah. So you know this is awful. The workers themselves
are working in deplorable conditions, twelve hours a day in
these disgusting rooms, doing this stuff, the same job over
and over and over, which was a new thing. Like
people weren't used to assembly line work much less like
if your job all day is to I don't even know.

I can't even imagine what they were doing.

Speaker 2 (30:22):
Skinning, slicing, removing, deboning.

Speaker 3 (30:25):
Yeah, there you go. They I made the joke about
losing a finger, but they did. They would lose digits,
they would lose limbs. This stuff would go into the food.
There were even people that fell into lard vats and
boiled alive and that.

Speaker 1 (30:41):
Went into the food. Yeah, there was a well, they
went into the lard.

Speaker 2 (30:45):
There was a quote that well which eventually went into food,
you know exactly. There was a quote from Sinclair that said,
all but the bones of them went out into the
world as DRAMs pure beef flowed.

Speaker 1 (30:57):
I don't think Derams is around anymore.

Speaker 2 (31:01):
Durhams couldn't survive that one. Yeah, there's another quote from
Upton Sinclair that he said, I aimed at the public's
heart and by accident, I hit it in the stomach,
which is him. Yeah, with him recognizing that he wrote
this book about socialism and everybody just focused in on
the really gross food stuff and that even still it

affected change. It just wasn't the change he was trying
to affect. But he wasn't one of those guys who's like,
oh great, I'm a celebrity either way, I don't care
how I got there. He turned out to be like
really bitter at everybody missing this message. Like his book
was widely read and nobody got it, at least they
didn't get it the way that he intended them to
get it.

Speaker 3 (31:42):
Yeah, this is another good quote. He said that he
was made to a celebrity not because the public cared
anything about the workers, but simply because the public did
not want to eat tubercular beef.

Speaker 2 (31:54):
Yeah. Man, that word. You start messing with that word,
it gets grosser and grosser.

Speaker 1 (31:59):
Yeah, tubercular beef should open for diarrhea planet.

Speaker 2 (32:03):
Oh boy, I think you've just come up with a tour.

Speaker 1 (32:07):
So this is a very sort of a bombshell book.

Speaker 3 (32:12):
It was released in nineteen o six in January, sold
twenty five thousand copies right out of the gate, which
was just a ton of books back then. There's a
lot of books now, as we've learned. Within about five months,
it was translated into seventeen different languages and eventually became
a silent movie as well in nineteen fourteen.

Speaker 2 (32:32):
Yeah, it was, like you said, it was a bombshell. Basically,
that log jam in Congress of you know that had
kept any food regulation bills essentially from passing this book
like broke it open. It dislodged all that stuff, and
the reason why was multifaceted. In addition to grossing out

the public and being like, we're eating this, government, do
something about this. Somebody do something about this, you had
that public outcry, which is kind of in line with
the progressive drum beat, right, you also had a developing
drum beat coming out of the business side, because that's
where that's the whole The debate was divided between the

progressives who were cranks and crazy and didn't understand business,
and the business side who were like, to shut up
and eat this stuff. We're trying to make a profit
here and get the engine of the United States revving.
There was a group in business that was like, hey,
we're already following like food safety practices totally and it's
really expensive compared to our competitors who are cutting every

corner possible and selling unsanitary products for way lower than
we can sell our safe products. So if these guys
start getting regulated, we're going to even the playing field.
And as a matter of fact, they'll be behind us
because they're going to have to play catch up expense
wise to get to the same level that we're operating

at and have been all this time. And I said, ketchup,
which is ironic because one of those companies that was
already doing things safe was the Heinz Company.

Speaker 1 (34:12):
Yeah, hats off to the Heinz Company.

Speaker 2 (34:14):
Right, Yeah, not just Heines, but also old Taylor Whiskey.

Speaker 3 (34:18):
Yeah, so you know there were it wasn't everyone. And
that's a really good point. I'm glad you made it
because Heines probably since that has been saying. By the way,
you know, we weren't a part of all that, right,
you know, it should have been called the Jungle Colon
except for Hines. So Roosevelt all of a sudden is

getting one hundred calls I'm sorry, not calls. He was
getting one hundred letters a day, calls. He would have
been like, what's happening here about food safety? He calls
up Upton Sinclair. These guys should not be buddies, And spoiler,
they did not end up being buddies. Yeah, it wasn't
like some crazy like you're like this and I'm like this,
but you know, we have a lot in common. As

it turns out, the only thing they had in common,
it seems like, was that they wanted to clean up
the food situation in the United States. They didn't trust
each other, of course, they didn't really like each other.

Speaker 1 (35:18):
Of course, Roosevelt.

Speaker 3 (35:19):
Did not like a muck breaking journalist, and of course
Sinclair was like, Hey, the Beef Trust is giving you
two hundred thousand dollars for your presidential campaign, which in
the future, in twenty twenty four, that would be seven
million dollars.

Speaker 1 (35:34):
Wow, so you're in.

Speaker 3 (35:35):
The pocket of the Beef Trust, which he denied, of course,
because he had to eat that beef in Cuba.

Speaker 2 (35:41):
Yeah, he said, mister Sinclair, I bear no love for
those gentlemen, for I ate the meat they can for
the army in Cuba.

Speaker 3 (35:48):
Yeah, comma, but their checks cashed all the same.

Speaker 2 (35:51):
Well, he lived up to that quote. He took on
the Beef Trust, and he got this legislation essentially passed
through as we'll see. And then, just as a side note,
you mentioned muckrakers. Apparently Teddy Roosevelt was the one who
inadvertently coined that term. He was giving a speech about
I'm not sure what the whole point of the speech
was about, but he was basically railing against journalists to

go look and dig up scandal. And he allowed that
there's a role that they play in the public forum
that's a good role, which is if there's somebody doing
something shady, these guys are going to go find out
and tell everybody, and that's a public good. What he
was saying is even when given the chance to just
write legitimate journalism, after that, they still go look for

scandal and like try to cause problems that might not
necessarily need, that aren't really problems. And he compared them
to a character from Pilgrim's Progress who was the muckraker
and muck is poop by the way, who had the
chance to trade in his muckrake for not a muckrake
and didn't even look up to didn't even bother looking up,

just kept looking down at the muck he was raking
for not a muckrake exactly.

Speaker 3 (36:59):
So he doesn't like Sinclair, like we said, he certainly
doesn't trust him. He thought that the account in the
Jungle was he called it hysterical. So he's like, I'm
going to look into this myself, and by myself, I
mean I'm going to have other people do it for me.
Charles Neil, who was a Commissioner of the Bureau of
Labor at the time, and an attorney from New York
named James Reynolds would do the same thing. Well, I

don't think they posed as workers, but they did the
investigation in packing town in Chicago. It resulted in the
Neil Reynolds report. And basically, I mean the long story
short of the Neils Reynolds report is, by the way,
everything he said what's true.

Speaker 2 (37:39):
Yeah, and it's even more more than than he put
it in his book. That was the thing you said,
they didn't pose as packing workers. The packing companies knew
they were coming, and they yes, and they were so
like the stuff they were doing was just so bad
and entrenched that they still were caught doing all this
stuff knowing that these were coming to investigate. So now

Teddy Roosevelt has documentation from two people that he trusts saying, yes,
this is actually going on. This is a huge problem
and we need to do something about it.

Speaker 1 (38:14):
Should we talk about the bathrooms.

Speaker 2 (38:15):
Yes, let's because we haven't been super gross for a minute.

Speaker 3 (38:20):
So like we said, they exposed even worse things than
in the book, and this is one of them. The
bathrooms weren't really bathrooms. Sometimes it would just be a
little cordoned off area of the same workroom floor where
they're scooping up god knows what to put into the sausage.
There was obviously no sinks, there were no open toilets.

You would just pee in that corner. There was no soap,
no toilet paper, and that's when it was just sort
of cordoned off.

Speaker 1 (38:47):
There were also places where it was just nothing.

Speaker 3 (38:50):
They would just pee where they were so they could
keep working as fast as they could. They said, the
fumes from the urine, I'll just read the quote hints
in some cases, the fumes from the urine swell the
sum of nauseating odors arising from the dirty, blood soaked
rotting wood floors.

Speaker 1 (39:10):

Speaker 3 (39:11):
Yeah, fruitful is hard for me to say. Fruitful culture
beds for the disease germs of men and animals.

Speaker 2 (39:16):
Yeah, and don't forget. Multiple times a day they scraped
up the stuff that had dropped on the floor and
put it in the sausage. And I saw a description
of those floors that really turned my stomach. They called
them spongy. Isn't that awful because they were rotting from
spit and blood and urine. That's what the meat was

coming into contact.

Speaker 1 (39:39):
Yeah, so it held even more.

Speaker 2 (39:42):
Yeah, so gross, dude, spongy wood as bad enough as
it is.

Speaker 1 (39:47):
Oh man.

Speaker 3 (39:48):
So the other thing they did was said, and by
the way, President Benjamin Harris former president, in eighteen ninety
you signed a very weak meat inspection bill that basically
put USDA inspectors at these meat packing plants. But all
they were charged to do was say, well, this cow
was healthy before they slaughtered it, and I'm going back

to sleep now. They had no authority to oversee what
happened after that point exactly.

Speaker 2 (40:15):
So even the rejected animals that those USDA inspectors would
be like, this one doesn't pass, muster, get rid of it.
They would get rid of it, and then when the
inspector left, they would go back and get it and
process it anyway. So there was no actual like oversight. Yeah.
Even the oversight that was there was just completely undermined.

Speaker 1 (40:36):

Speaker 2 (40:37):
So this this was like, this was bad news for
the Beef Trust and other packers. This something was now
going to happen because Teddy Roosevelt had this report, and
in addition to the jungle being out in public, he said, Hey,
I've got this report, Congress, I want these I want
some reforms to be pushed through. Make it happen, or

I'm going to release this report that I've commissioned that's
really getting to blow the lid off of this stuff.
And he got cooperation from the Senate. They passed a bill,
passed a great bill, and then it started to get
blocked in the House, and I think it came down
to like two senators or no, two congress people, congressmen
who were so in the Beef Trust pocket that they

staged a last ditch effort at stopping these meat inspection
bills from going through. And that finally did it for Roosevelt,
and he released the Neil Reynolds report, and it just
made anybody sticking up for the Beef Trust look so
bad that you just couldn't get in the way of
it any longer.

Speaker 3 (41:42):
Yeah, And I think didn't someone leaked it beforehand too?
Didn't Upton Sinclair help leak it?

Speaker 2 (41:48):
Yeah, supposedly, And I guess Teddy Roosevelt angrily wired Doubleday,
the publisher, the actual guy named Doubleday, and said, like,
can you please tell up upting Sinclair to leave the
is of ruting the country to me? For once?

Speaker 1 (42:04):
That was smarmy.

Speaker 2 (42:06):
You see smarm everywhere in all the quotes.

Speaker 1 (42:08):
I see smarmy people.

Speaker 3 (42:09):
So this resulted in two things, the Meat Inspection Act
of nineteen oh six and then eventually the Pure Food
and Drug Act, which outlawed the sale of any altered, adulterated,
mislabeled foods, drug, medicine, or liquor. Became known as doctor
Wiley's Law or the Wiley Act. Contribute to doctor Wiley.

That was not the creation of the FDA, though that
would come along a little bit later. And like you said,
we have a great episode on the FDA.

Speaker 1 (42:41):
What year was that though nineteen twenty.

Speaker 2 (42:43):
Seven, nineteen thirty. The Bureau of Chemistry was part of
the USD until nineteen twenty.

Speaker 3 (42:48):
Seven, all right, So then finally in nineteen thirty we
get our FDA.

Speaker 2 (42:52):
And then finally in nineteen thirty eight, after FDR came
into office, the federal government was the agent. The FDA
was finally given real teeth to actually regulate stuff. It
was kind of nominal for a while until the late thirties.

Speaker 1 (43:07):
You gotta say real teeth right now.

Speaker 2 (43:09):
Sorry, I'm sorry, I mean as a slam.

Speaker 1 (43:14):
That's all right.

Speaker 2 (43:15):
Well, if you want to know more about this really
interesting period in history, go research up Sin Saint Clair,
Teddy Roosevelt, doctor Harvey Washington, Wiley, read the Jungle, do
all that stuff, and just see how grossed out you
can get before you vomit. And since Chuck laughed at vomit,
that means it's time for listener mail.

Speaker 1 (43:38):
Yeah. I read this.

Speaker 3 (43:39):
It's an email about our live show in Seattle, and
I read this as sort of a hey, here's what
you get at a stuff you should know show. Because
we've got we've got the cities lined up. We haven't
announced on sale dates or anything, but I think we
can probably say what cities were going through.

Speaker 2 (43:56):
Right Yeah, Yeah, I think it's pretty much in the bag.

Speaker 1 (43:59):
All right.

Speaker 3 (43:59):
So we're going to hit Chicago, Indianapolis, and Minneapolis, all
the apolis is and then where are we going in
the Northeast this year?

Speaker 2 (44:10):
In the Northeast, We're doing DC, We're going to do Boston. Yeah,
we're going to us New York City, which we haven't
been to in a while.

Speaker 3 (44:18):
Yeah, it's been a minute since we've been to New York.
And then we're going to finish out the year in Durham,
North Carolina, and our final show the year in Atlanta,
like we like to do.

Speaker 2 (44:28):
Yeah, that's the schedule as it stands now, and it's
pretty close to baked, close enough that we're willing to
say this in the hopes that we don't have to
edit out of town.

Speaker 1 (44:38):
That's right.

Speaker 3 (44:38):
So I read this because this is a little taste
of what you can get here. And this is from
Mary Benedict, a grandma to a grandson, and they went
to the show together.

Speaker 2 (44:49):
Oh, this is a great email.

Speaker 3 (44:51):
It was Hey, guys, been listening for about ten years.
I'm a huge fan and retired teacher. I introduced my
grandson just stuff you should know, and he too has
become a devoted fan. So for Christmas, I gave him
tickets to the live event in Seattle. He was thrilled.
We went to the show, absolutely loved the experience. The
topic was fun. You two are as great as you

sound in your episodes. As the questions move forward, so
we do a little Q and a at the end. Surprise,
surprise if you haven't been to a show. So as
the questions move forward toward the end, you declared one
final question which would have left my grandson at the mic.
I was repeating to myself, please please see that he's
a kid. Please see that he's a kid, and Chuck

did exactly that. You asked him how old he was,
as well as the girl behind him, both were fourteen.
You apologize to the other side and let the two
young people talk with you. Please know what a remarkable
moment that was for my grandson, A euphoric life experience
in memory.

Speaker 1 (45:47):
So thank you.

Speaker 3 (45:48):
I also want to share my appreciation for how kind
you were to all the people in Q and A.
You always asked a question about them or thoughtfully commented
on personal things they shared with you.

Speaker 1 (45:58):
That level of.

Speaker 3 (45:58):
Compassion and kindness is extraordinary. In my regard for you,
both rose even higher. And lastly, Josh, thank you for
your vulnerability sharing that you need to avoid the news
right now, for your well being, demonstrated strength and emotional
intelligence to everyone present, and thank you for modeling great
life strategies. Are you familiar with highly sensitive people? You

may not be one, but I am and my grandson.

Speaker 1 (46:25):
Is as well.

Speaker 3 (46:26):
It is a character trait, not a problem, and that
would make a fantastic topic for a podcast for sure.
Sorry this ran long, but in the world where people
are quick to point out what's wrong, Mary, we love you.
I believe it's important to tell people what they are
doing when they are doing great things. And you two
are doing great things.

Speaker 1 (46:45):
That's awesome, That is wonderful.

Speaker 3 (46:47):
That is Mary with an I Benedict and Mary's grandson.

Speaker 1 (46:51):
So thank you both for coming.

Speaker 2 (46:53):
Yeah, thanks a lot, a lot, Yeah, for sure.

Speaker 1 (46:56):

Speaker 2 (46:56):
The life strategy example I'm setting is avoidance.

Speaker 1 (47:02):
Now, avoiding the news is not avoidance.

Speaker 2 (47:04):
If it's true. If you want to be like Mary
and her grandson and come to one of our shows,
we will eventually put the information and links and all
that for tickets up and in the meantime you can
get in touch with us by email at stuff podcast
at iHeartRadio dot com.

Speaker 1 (47:24):
Stuff you Should Know is a production of iHeartRadio. For
more podcasts my heart Radio, visit the iHeartRadio app, Apple Podcasts,
or wherever you listen to your favorite shows.

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