Students at Dewey Elementary School, which is on the border of the neighborhoods of New City, Englewood, and Back of the Yards in Chicago, were in for quite a spectacle this past week, as Rob Levitt, head butcher for Publican Quality Meats prepared a special demonstration for the classroom – the butchering of a full pig.
The students at Dewey are currently reading Upton Sinclair’s fictional story “The Jungle”, a novel originally published in 1905 that exposed the harsh and unsanitary working conditions in the meat-packing industry in Chicago.
Rob Levitt provided students with a live lesson of how to properly butcher a pig, including the role of the butcher as a craft and ways of honoring animals and utilizing all parts to create delicious foods. Students were able to see and smell the fresh pig and listened as Rob discussed the methods and sanitary practices.
“This butcher put on quite a show! It was the most entertaining thing I have ever seen. I can’t wait to brag to my mom about what I have seen today.”
The public response to Sinclair’s novel led to federal laws helping regulate the meat industry, including the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906, which established procedures for federal inspection of meat processing plants. A Sinclair famously said about his novel, “I aimed at the public’s heart, and by accident I hit it in the stomach.”
Students were equally impressed and inspired by Rob’s demonstration, and expressed their delight with the lesson.
“He has made me feel inspired. I would want to be able to teach kids those things too. I would love to see a cow get cut up like that.”
Special thanks to Rob Levitt and Publican Quality Meats for providing the pig and the lesson demonstration.