On the production line in American packinghouses, there is one cardinal rule: the chain never slows. Under pressure to increase supply, the supervisors of meat-processing plants have routinely accelerated the pace of conveyors, leading to inhumane conditions, increased accidents, and food of questionable and often dangerous quality. In The Chain, acclaimed journalist Ted Genoways uses the story of Hormel Foods and its most famous product, Spam, to probe the state of the meatpacking industry. Interviewing scores of line workers, union leaders, hog farmers, and local politicians and activists, Genoways reveals an industry pushed to its breaking point. Along the way, he exposes alarming new trends: sick or permanently disabled workers, abused animals, water and soil pollution, and mounting conflict between small towns and immigrant labor.