I've been reading an advanced copy of Maureen Ogle's new book, In Meat We Trust: An Unexpected History of Carnivore America . I'm about half way through, and so far it is fantastic.
In one section, Ogle writes about Americans' attitudes toward meat packers in the early 1900s:
Americans insisted on access to cheap food, regardless of its true cost, but believed the worst of those who made that cheap food possible and abundant
Is it any different today? By the way, when she's referring to "true cost" she doesn't mean externalities - she's talking about the material costs of raising beef and getting it to market, which the average consumer under-estimates.
She also cited a magazine article written around the same time about by a journalist who actually understood the the effects brought about by the Swift meat packing company:
“We make great outcry against the concentrated bigness of the packers, yet the probability is that we would make yet greater outcry if the modern system of food supply were suddenly cut off and we were put back on the basis of local butcher-shops.” He was right. in the United States, the mechanisms of food supply were so efficient that they had become taken for granted — and when it came to food, Americans took nothing for granted so much as low price.
They say that the more things change, the more they stay the same. Here we are a hundred years later, and it remains the case that the mechanisms of food supply are so efficient that they are taken for granted.