It’s nearly Lent, which means it’s carnival time, so let’s take a look at how meat is made. Though whether this will make you want to go to town on the remaining flesh products or become a vegetarian is an open question, I suppose.
The short opens with brothers Brad and Greg seeing a long train of Hormel cars and deciding that they would like to go on a tour of the meat processing plant to see hog carcasses being broken down (“Dear Brad and Greg, what the hell is wrong with you?”). From there, we mostly leave the boys behind while the narrator takes us through the creation of everything from ham to spam and beyond.
Did I mention the short is thirty minutes long? Thirty minutes of industrial meat processing. Among other highlights, we get to see raw processed wiener filler (“at this point our lawyers no longer allow us to refer to this as ‘food'”), meat grinders in full action, clearly unhappy workers operating in close proximity to extremely sharp instruments, and a loving close-up of a cow carcass being skinned (“The tail! The horrible tail!”). Then, when they run out of meat, the short keeps going to talk about other aspects of the business, such as R and D or accounting.
Basically, Hormel wanted to show everything they had to offer, whether in products or jobs or tours (apparently, that was a thing; they end by inviting the viewer to come on one). And boy, do they ever.
Meanwhile, the narrator blithely engages in so many accidental double-entendres (“the wieners are discharged onto a larger conveyor”) that, even in a film like this, I can’t help wondering if it was intentional on someone’s part.
The crew are in top form for the chance to play Upton Sinclair, and the jokes practically write themselves for most of the short (to the point where Kevin actually gets flustered by the sheer number of jokes he could be making at several points. See above regarding the double-entendres). The raw horror of disassembly and the frankly revolting appearance of half-processed meats in an industrial atmosphere, coupled with the narrator’s upbeat tone, make for a mesmerizing spectacle and, quite frankly, the guys’ sincere revulsion makes it all the funnier (the nightmare that is the Hide Cellar would go on to become one of their stock jokes).
I will say that the jokes start to fall off a little toward the end, as the meat processing is increasingly left behind and we ramble on about mechanical trades and such, but it’s amusing throughout and the jokes in the first three-quarters are so funny that the overall effect isn’t really spoiled.
And, like most such educational films, it is kind of interesting to get a behind-the-scenes look at the process of industrial food presentation, unappetizing though it is. I mean, Brad and Greg asking to go on tour is as strange as ever (as is the the question of why the filmmakers felt the need for this thin framing story), but it’s still a glimpse at a process that most of us never see, but which has a real impact on our lives. Our world is so complex that most of us see only the merest fraction of the things we depend on for basic necessities. A film like this pulls back the curtain a little, for better or for worse.
Find the Beef here.
Some Favorite jokes:
“Back to the pork-cut, the story of bacon.”
“The greatest story ever told!”
“We do get a few hands, I won’t lie.”
“Thousands of automated needle injections per minute: just like grandma used to make it!”
“…And little Brad and Greg just can’t stop puking.”
“These units are capable of printing and reading.”
“Unlike the average high-school grad.”
“You don’t get fired at Hormel, you get relocated to the Hide Cellar.”
P.S. I just had the idea for a musical remake centered around a cover of ‘This is Me’ from The Greatest Showman:
“Meat is good
Meat is swell
The Hide Cellar’s a living hell
This is Hormel!”