Article Title

Planning for change in small towns or trying to avoid the slaughterhouse blues


Michael Broadway

Journal Title/Source

Journal of Rural Studies

Publication Date




Issue (if applicable)


Page Numbers


DOI (if applicable)

Document Type

Journal Article


Earth, Environmental and Geographical Sciences


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.