Classic Chicago

The Union Stockyards, Carl Sandburg and Today

For more than a century, Chicago was known as the Hog Butcher for the World. Where did that nickname come from?


For more than a century, Chicago earned a reputation for being the hog butcher to the world. That lovely nickname came from a Carl Sandburg poem describing the Union Stock Yards, which from 1865 through the 1920s processed more meat — hogs, cows, sheep — than anywhere else in the world. Sounds nice right? Well, it smelled even better. But business was business and this South Side area made millionaires of some of the biggest names in the industry, like Swift and Armour (both members of the CAA, by the way), while employing tens of thousands of workers.

While the stockyards officially closed in 1971 and were designated a Chicago landmark the following year, its impact is still felt today. No, the stockyards and the stench haven’t returned, but a new generation of chefs and butchers like Rob Levitt at the Butcher & Larder and Cosmo Goss at Publican and Publican Quality Meats, are ensuring Chicagoans get our fill of quality butchering and places like West Loop Salumi and Tete Charcuterie make it easy to get cured meats.

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