Tobacco is Kentucky's principal cash crop and integral to its economy, history, and culture. As tobacco came under increasing attack in the 1990s, the poultry industry eagerly expanded into the state. Absent in 1990, by 1998 Kentucky was home to four large chicken processing plants and some 2,000 breeder, pullet, and broiler houses that supply them. The Tobacco Belt and the Corn Belt meet in western Kentucky's Webster County, where 227 chicken houses were built between 1995 and 1998. In 1998, the author returned to Webster County to study his birthplace at this time of rapid and profound change in its agricultural economy and way of life.

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