Campus Closeup: Michael Broadway

Michael Broadway (Arts and Sciences) has spent nearly 25 years researching the meat/poultry industry in the United States and Canada. The experience has not only altered his eating habits, but enlightened him on the pitfalls of using the blogosphere to share one’s expertise with a wider audience.


In Slaughterhouse Blues, now in its second edition, Broadway and a University of Kansas professor examine the impact of industrialized meat/poultry production on plant employees and the surrounding communities. The book is marketed primarily for use in college courses. In an attempt to expand beyond academia, Broadway and his colleague began writing for CSRwire, a corporate social responsibility blog. They have addressed two related and intriguing topics: that animal rights lobbyists are more successful than those who lobby for better treatment for plant workers, many of whom are immigrants; and that our food system has become an oligopoly, with only a handful of multinational corporations controlling most of the food supply, despite a deceptively substantial increase in product choices at the grocery store.


“About 85 cents of every food dollar goes to eight companies, regardless of the type of product you buy,” said Broadway. “And four companies control 80 percent of the beef market in this country. With pork and chicken, it’s slightly less. When a farmer wants to sell his cattle, there may be only one bidder in the area and the farmer just has to accept that price. So probably less than 10 percent of each dollar spent on food goes back to the farmer. That explains the rise of the local farmer’s market; there’s no one intervening between those who grow or raise the food and the consumer.


“We have received some wacky responses to the blogs. The Internet can be a forum for the free exchange of ideas, but some people take advantage of their anonymity to express extreme views. It’s the first and only time I’ll go that route.”


Broadway says he eats grass-fed beef, but consumes less chicken because of selective breeding to shorten life expectancy and the use of hormones and antibiotics to facilitate weight gain. He has also cut down on pork because sows are confined to farrowing crates. He said some leading supermarket and restaurant chains refuse to purchase pork from companies that use the crates and his native England has outlawed them altogether in favor of free-range pigs with huts for shelter dotting the hillsides.


Born and raised in London, Broadway made his first trip to America in his teens and attended high school in Brooklyn as an exchange student. He later traversed Canada and the United States and attended college in Pennsylvania for two semesters while an undergraduate. After ompleting his education between the United Kingdom and Illinois, he taught at two other universities before joining the NMU faculty in 1997. Broadway also served as geography department head. He is now dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.


“I oversee faculty recruitment and evaluations, which includes reviewing applications for tenure and promotion before they are forwarded to the faculty review committee. A rewarding aspect is providing resources for faculty to engage in scholarship, because they are responsible for delivering the curriculum.”


A self-described restless soul, Broadway still likes to travel back to Europe. If he can’t literally take a trip, Broadway travels vicariously through literature. He enjoys mystery novels with a strong sense of place. A favorite author is Ian Rankin, whose Inspector Rebus series is set in Edinburgh, Scotland. Broadway also keeps busy tending his perennial garden, which “comes alive for three weeks in the spring and then it’s basically over.” Each weekday morning, he can be found at the PEIF, either on the treadmill or lifting weights. “At my age, I’m not trying to impress anyone.”


He has already impressed his wife of 31 years, Jennifer. They have three children: Julia, an adjunct instructor in NMU’s English department and service manager at Sweet Water Café; John, a recent graduate of St. Olaf College who is looking for employment in the Twin Cities area; and David, a senior in high school. 


To read the two blogs, visit Animal Welfare vs. Worker Welfare or Freedom of Choice at the Supermarket: Not.



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Updated: August 23, 2012

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