Meatpacking and the Transformation of Rural Communities: A Comparison of Brooks, Alberta and Garden City, Kansas*


  • *

    Part of this research was funded by a grant from the U.S.-Canada Fulbright Foundation. The author is grateful for the assistance and help provided over the years of this study by the citizens of Brooks and Garden City. The manuscript has been substantially improved by the helpful comments of two anonymous reviewers. Direct correspondence to: Michael Broadway, Department of Geography, Northern Michigan University, 1401 Presque Isle Ave, Marquette, MI 49855; e-mail:


Abstract North America's meatpackers have relied upon immigrants to staff their plants from the earliest days of the industry in the late nineteenth century when packinghouses were located in urban areas adjacent to stockyards. A hundred years later the industry remains dependent on an immigrant labor force, but now most of its plants are located in rural areas. This means rural communities are transformed with the arrival of immigrants to staff their plants. But Canada and the United States have different immigration policies, which means they draw upon different immigrant sources. Canada favors the recruitment of highly skilled labor while the United States emphasizes family reunification. This paper examines whether this difference affects the labor force composition of a Canadian and U.S. meatpacking plant, and the associated transformation of the plants' host communities.