Food - Meats
( Originally Published 1917 )
The live-stock industry. The world's meat industry is so immense that one needs a keen imagination indeed in order to grasp its size and importance. It contributes to the tables of every civilized people and to the feasts of many savage tribes, and it draws upon the resources of almost every country. The ranges and pastures of the United States, the plains of Hungary, the steppes of Russia, the pampas of South America, and the wild reaches of the Australian "salt bush" all help in the giant task of producing the world's meat.
No country is so densely populated and none so sparsely settled that it is not called upon to share in the interesting labor of raising live stock to feed the human race. Each country naturally selects that part of the work for which it is best adapted.
England the nursery of the meat industry. It might be thought, for example, that England, with its 51,000 square miles of land and its 34,000,000 population, would leave the raising of animals to countries with much more room for the four-footed creatures. But the "tight little isle" may fairly be called the nursery of the live-stock industry, for it raises the breeding material for the finest flocks and herds of the great meat-producing countries of the world. In other words, the beautiful country estates of England do for the live-stock industry of the United States, Canada, South America, Australia, and South Africa what the research laboratory does for the great manufacturing industry that it is intended to serve-they develop with the, greatest degree of certainty and at the smallest expense the types of live stock best calculated to meet special public demands.
For instance, in the early stages of the cattle industry in America the Texas longhorn, a wild, gaunt creature, was the most common type. While it was adapted to range over wide reaches of country and could exist on plains that would look like deserts to the boy or girl of our settled farming country, it was not easy to fatten. Cattle of this kind have been almost wholly supplanted by the Hereford, the Shorthorn, and the Angus breeds developed on English meadows. There, by patient selection, has been bred a type of animal which, on the smallest amount of feed, takes on the greatest amount of flesh in the shortest period of time.
In sheep, Shropshires, Hampshires, and Oxfords are equally celebrated types of mutton sheep which have been perfected in England and distributed to distant parts of the world. They have become the ancestors of the great flocks that graze on the western ranges of the United States, the plains of Australia, the pampas of South America, and the veldts of South Africa.
As a nursery for the types of swine which are in greatest demand where the biggest part of the world's pork is produced, England again heads the list, with the Berkshires, the Yorkshires, the Hampshires, and the Tamworths.
In cattle, sheep, and swine, England has perfected many other breeds quite as famous as those mentioned. Many other small and densely populated countries have helped to build up the live-stock industry in much this same way, although to a less extent than England.
Home of pedigreed stock. It is interesting to know that the ancestors of most of the meat animals of the great live-stock-producing countries of the world, like the ancestors of most of the people of the United States, have come from the small and highly developed countries of Europe. In thousands of instances the pedigree of these animals may be traced with quite as much exactness as the family trees of the widely scattered descendants of peoples in continental Europe and the British Isles.
World-wide distribution of meat. Another interesting phase of the live-stock industry is its tendency to scatter out over the world and then return to the place of its origin. Year after year, England is sending to Australia, New Zealand, South America, South Africa, the United States, and Canada " foundation stock" for flocks of "sheep of the best mutton types, and the descendants of these sheep are sent back to England in the shape of frozen mutton.
In the same way the cut of beef served in an English chop-house may easily have come from a Hereford steer born and pastured in Texas, and stall-fed in Illinois, whose grandsire was raised in Herefordshire, England.
The remarkable range of distribution in canned and dried meats is suggested by the fact that various parts df a single beef animal, -for example, may be eaten in a dozen different countries scattered widely over the surface of the earth. There is no spot on the globe reached by traffic where meats in these forms have not found their way.
Meat-producing countries. Although about half the inhabitants of the earth eat but little meat, there are few people who do not eat at least some every year. The burden of the immense work of meat production falls chiefly upon nine countries, and of these only the Argentine, Australia, the United States, Canada, Uruguay, and New Zealand have enough range and pasturage to be able to export any considerable amount of meat. But Denmark, although a small country, sends large amounts of its famous bacon to all parts of the world. In normal times, Mexico and Russia also export a certain amount of meat. Brazil is rapidly developing as an exporter of meats.
The world's surplus of mutton is raised mostly in Australia, New Zealand, and the Argentine, and the excess beef in South America, Australia, and North America. Three fourths of the world's pork exports are from the United States. Practically all the beef eaten in countries where it is not extensively raised is grown on the American continents.
The meat-exporting countries in one year sent almost 4,000,000,000 pounds of meat,to the importing countries, most of it being "jerked" (dried) and frozen. America, however, exported some fresh meat, which was carried to European ports in fast refrigerated steamships.
Stock raising in South Africa. There is constant pressure to extend the area of meat production. In far-off Africa much attention is being given to the raising of animals for meat. But in British South Africa adverse conditions exist and it is only by the greatest effort that the stock raisers there have been able to increase the production of meat animals. In some parts of that country, because of irregular and insufficient rainfall, it is necessary for every stock raiser to have both highland and lowland ranges. The uplands are used in summer for range and the lowlands in winter. In the drier parts of South Africa it sometimes requires from ten to twelve acres of land to support one sheep, and at least five times as many acres are needed for each head of cattle.
Suppose this condition existed in England or in Germany! The result would be an international calamity. In the thickly populated countries of Europe live stock must be raised on a minimum amount of land, and in Japan, where population is dense and tillable land scarce, the people practice intensive agriculture largely to the exclusion of the raising of live stock. To a great extent they substitute fish from the sea for the meats we enjoy.
American packing industry. In the great cattle-raising countries of South America and Australia are maintained enormous packing plants and cold storage warehouses, where thousands of cattle and sheep are prepared for export. But in studying the processes of preparing meat for the table, we cannot do better than consider the American packing industry, the greatest in the world—an industry whose products for a single year were valued at more than $1,500,000,000.
The principal domestic animals raised in this country for food are cattle, sheep, swine, and some goats. Since beef is the most important of our meat products, let us study that first.
The story of beef. Let us imagine that we are following a steer from his home pasture to the table at which he is to be eaten. In Colorado there is a certain ranch where the finest steers are raised. Surely there could be no better place to look for our animal than on the rich, alfalfa-covered hillsides of this ranch. So let us assume that we are there and that we have selected a sleek "white face," which is being driven into the loading corral. He is four years old, weighs about eighteen hundred pounds, and has a distinctive mark which makes it easy to identify him. On his flank is the scar of the branding iron. The brand, let us assume, is a circle between two short lines, which means that the name of the ranch on which he was raised is the "Bar Circle Bar."
The loading corral into which our "white face" has been driven is on a spur of a railroad, a thousand miles or more from Packingtown. In the same corral are almost two thousand other steers, which within a week will all have gone through the stock-yards at Chicago.
Usually ranchers sell their two- and three-year-olds to "feeders," who put them on rich pasturage and feed them corn and other fattening rations, until each steer has taken on several hundred additional pounds of flesh. There are "feeders" in the corn belt states who do nothing but buy undeveloped cattle from ranches, fatten them, and sell them for high-grade beef. There are also thousands of farmers scattered throughout the Middle West of the United States who take a few steers each fall, when range cattle come to the market in great numbers, owing to the ending of the pasture season, to "finish," or stall feed. "Native steers" are those finished on the farms where they are born. They are usually choice animals.
The Bar Circle Bar ranch maintains its own rich alfalfa pastures and large sheds for winter feeding. It is one of the last of the very big ranches and has many miles of range. In pioneer days, our western ranches had almost unlimited ranges, the ranchers being allowed to graze their cattle and sheep at will over the virgin prairies. But with the march of civilization and the enforcement of fencing laws, the great free ranges have disappeared, the big ranches have been cut up into smaller ones, and the plow has turned the range into farms.
From the loading corral our "white face" is put into a cattle car, together with a number of his brothers, and shipped to Chicago. Here the car is switched onto the railroad tracks which enter the stockyards and he is unloaded into one of the many thousand pens there.
The Chicago Union Stockyards, although standing alongside the great packing plants, is simply a hotel for live stock, in which as many as half a million animals in a single day may be received and cared for as "guests," although not more than about a third that number have ever been "entertained" at one time. Here the stock is received by a commission man designated by the shipper, whose business it is to sell them to the highest bidder, whether he be a local packer, a buyer from the eastern cities, or a "feeder." For its service the stockyards company receives a certain sum for each animal handled, and the commission man gets a fee for his work.
Our big steer is bought for one of the packing houses by a busy man in a raincoat, who clatters along the stone-paved streets of the stockyards on horseback. One of the many buyers in the stock-yards, he is an expert on cattle values. He can tell at a glance the quality of a steer, how much market-able beef the animal will "dress," and what percentage of that will go into fine cuts. If he sees an especially fine grain-fed steer he will bid high for it against other buyers who want the same animal.
In the next pen are two brand inspectors, or cattle detectives. These men, employed by the cattle associations, are familiar with every brand used to mark cattle. If any seller tries to dispose of an animal that does not bear his registered brand, it is the duty of these inspectors to learn how the animal was obtained. This is to prevent stolen cattle from being marketed through the stockyards.
After being passed by the brand inspectors, fed, watered, and allowed to rest for a day or two, our "white face" is transferred, along with several others, to a pen in Packingtown. Now for a short time we must lose sight of him and await his reappearance in the chilling room in the form of two halves of beef, his head gone and his sleek hide on its way to the tannery. In the chilling room, the animal heat is thoroughly removed from the carcass.
Every carcass in a packing house is examined by United States government inspectors. There are almost four hundred of these officials in Packing-town. All carcasses that are passed are stamped with the United States stamp, which reads, "U. S. Inspected and Passed." This is a virtual guaranty that the meat is wholesome.
For forty-eight hours the carcasses are allowed to remain in the chilling room, which is kept at 36 degrees above zero. A few of these carcasses are sent to the local salesrooms, from which they are sold to the retail meat dealers. By far the greater number, however, are cooled to the desired temperature, loaded into thousands of modern refrigerator cars owned by the packers, and shipped to distant distributing points.
Only 56 to 58 per cent of the average steer can be sold for table use. This leaves about 43 per cent waste. But this waste has been banished. Probably no other industry has so completely mastered the art of utilizing waste. Even the gallstones of the animals are sold to the Japanese to be made into good-luck talismans. The blood is pressed, dried, and made into blood meal, used in balancing rations for feeding hogs and chickens and in the manufacture of fertilizer.
If your local butcher kills his own animals, as a few of them do, you may learn from him that he uses only the meat, hide, and brains. If the great packing houses used no more of the animal than these products, meat would be far more expensive than it is now. But it is only the large killing establishments that are able to provide the facilities for turning every scrap of waste into a valuable by-product. To do this requires large and expensive plants with elaborate equipment.
There is a certain class of butcher who uses only the fore quarters of the steer. This is the shohet, a Jewish Rabbi, who butchers the Kosher-killed cattle, the only meat the religion of the orthodox Jew will permit him to eat.
Now let us follow the halves of our white-faced steer from the chilling room to their final destination. One half of the carcass was sold to a local hotel and was transferred by auto truck to its cold storage room, and was there cut into choice steaks and roasts and served to the guests in a beautiful dining room. The other half of. our Hereford was bought by an out-of-town customer. It was loaded into a waiting refrigerator car, and delivered the following morning at a meat market in a town about a hundred miles away.
The tongue of our steer was pickled and its brains were frozen for shipment. The remainder of the carcass not used as meat was put through the various waste-saving processes and came out as by-products.
A large percentage of the meat from lean animals is canned. They are commonly called "scrubs" or "canners." This does not mean that their meat is of an inferior quality, but simply that it contains less moisture and fat and is therefore less tender. So it is more suitable for canning purposes than for steaks and roasts.
Shipping sheep and swine. Now let us see what becomes of the other meat-producing animals sent to the packers. Sheep and swine are often shipped in two-story cars called "double deckers." All live-stock cars are equipped with feeding and watering troughs and must be accompanied on their journeys by attendants, whose duty it is to see that the animals receive proper and humane attention. When the animals reach the stockyards they are transferred into clean, sanitary pens, which are under the constant scrutiny of United States government inspectors.
Changing hogs into pork. Suppose we follow a hog from the pen through the plant. After being killed, the hog is dipped into scalding water to loosen the bristles, which are then deftly scraped off and started on their journey to be prepared for the brush makers.
Swinging from an overhead trolley rail the carcass, as it passes slowly down the line, is cleaned and disemboweled by various workmen. Each operation is observed by the ever-watchful government inspectors, who reject any animal that does not meet the strict require ments of the law. Carcasses thus condemned are rendered into inedible grease and fertilizer materials. Those that pass inspection are so stamped and sent on to the chilling rooms.
Now in place of the hog, we have so many pounds of pork. As with beef, this pork may be sold to dealers in country towns, frozen and shipped abroad, sold in local markets, or it may be cured. About as many products are made from its waste as from the waste of a beef carcass.
The history of the sheep passing through Packingtown is much the same as that of the steer and the hog. After he enters the packing plant, his skin is removed and his carcass inspected by the United States inspectors and then sent to the chilling room, and from there to the trade or else to cold storage.
Canned meats for the world. In the heart of Packingtown are establishments which supply canned meats to every part of the world. One plant there received a single order calling for 48,000,000 pounds of corned beef. The raw corned beef we buy at the butcher shop is not the canned corned beef of commerce. The latter is a carefully cooked food which comes from is container ready for the table.
On the top floor of this plant we find the cooking rooms, where stand rows of big iron vats in which the corned beef is cooked., These vats are heated by steam coils. From the basement cutting rooms, a great automatic carrier brings tons of cured beef up to this cooking floor. The meat has previously been cut into strips and allowed to soak for several days in a pickle of salt, saltpeter, and sugar.
When the meat reaches the cooking floor, it is placed in the big vats of boiling water and allowed to cook until the head chef, who superintends the cooking, pronounces it done. Then it is dipped out into aluminum buckets which travel along an overhead trolley. These buckets automatically dump their loads into a chute which passes the meat down upon aluminum-covered, traylike tables on the floor below, where it is sorted by hand, and the excess fat and gristle cut off. Next the meat goes through a series of cutting machines which cut it into smaller bits of the size desired.
The corned beef is then sent through other chutes to the floor below and there put into cans, which are filled by large automatic machines. One of these machines will fill 22,000 one-pound cans in a day.
There are eight of these can-filling machines kept constantly busy.
Bouillon cubes. This factory also makes meat extract and bouillon cubes from meat scraps or trimmings—not from blood, as some suppose. The scraps are cooked slowly until all the flavor is extracted from them. The liquid is then boiled until it becomes almost solid, when it is known as meat extract. Meat extract and certain vegetable extracts are combined and baked and then formed into bouillon cubes.
Nationalities of Packingtown workers. At the present time the Union Stockyards and Packingtown employ workers from forty-four different countries. If you draw lines on your world map from Chicago to the countries listed below, you will see how many thousand miles many of the men have traveled who work in Chicago's great packing plants.
Varieties of canned meats. Have you any idea of the variety of canned meats that can be bought? If your mother had one can of each kind of tinned meat, her pantry would indeed be well stocked, for at least sixty-two kinds are produced. Packingtown alone sends millions of dollars worth all over the world.
Other packing centers. While we have described Packingtown at Chicago, it should be remembered that there are many other great packing centers in the United States. Among the most important of these are Kansas City, New York, Omaha, Indianapolis, East St. Louis, and Buffalo.
How packers distribute their products. Before studying the different cured meats, let us learn how it is possible for the American packing house to distribute its products all over the world, to sell to the British colonist in South Africa, to the native of far distant Chosen, to the peasant of Northern Siberia.
Packingtown concerns have more than a thousand branch houses and offices scattered broadcast over the face of the globe. Under normal conditions, one packing plant alone has about five hundred salesmen engaged in selling its products throughout the United Kingdom and continental Europe. The various governments buy their meat by contracting for so many thousands or millions of pounds of a certain kind, to be delivered within a specified time.
In the principal cities of Europe, South America, and Asia, American packers have branch houses and offices, from which their salesmen solicit business. Thus, meat markets in Paris, Berlin, Vienna, London, Madrid, Stockholm, or any other large European city, are visited by salesmen who draw their pay from Packingtown.
Of course, it would not be good business to send a salesman through the wilds of Africa or India in order to sell a few natives a small supply of corned beef, or into the heart of Siberia to secure orders for a few barrels of fat pork from scattered peasants there. So these sales must be made in another way.
Now suppose little Nickol, who lives on the great steppes in Southern Siberia, between the Irtysh River and Balkhash Lake, has become tired of the goat meat from his father's herd, and longs for another taste of delicious ham like that which his eldest brother had once sent them from Petrograd.
As it is now nearly Christmas and Nickol has worked hard, his father decides to have an American ham for their Christ's Day feast. So, the next time he goes to town, he tells the butcher there that he wants an American ham—a big, sweet, American ham. May he have it for Christmas, which is only three weeks away? Yes; the butcher will see that it is on hand before Christmas.
That night the butcher writes to the wholesale house at Omsk and includes in his order the ham for little Nickol. The wholesale house at Omsk adds this to the order which it is sending to the big meat supply company in Petrograd. The Petrograd meat company has orders for many other hams, sides of bacon, and cases of American canned meats, and it telephones to the branch house of an American packing concern, with the result that the meat is delivered to its plant the following morning. Within two weeks the ham is at the butcher's shop waiting for little Nickol's father to call and get it.
This method of selling applies to canned meats as well as to other kinds of meats. But there are also direct importers in foreign countries who have the goods shipped from Packingtown straight to their own distributing houses.
Cured meats. When we speak of cured meats, we mean those which have been pickled, dried, or smoked. The dried meat of the packer is somewhat similar to the smoked article, whereas the meat dried by our forefathers, by the American Indians and the natives of South America, Australia, and other countries usually was not smoked. The dried beef from Packingtown when sliced and canned is also known as "chipped beef." The large packing houses of this country pickle the meat in brine before smoking it.
The story of ham. As ham is one of the most delicious and popular of cured meats, its story is too important and interesting to be omitted. Hams may be had in three forms: fresh, boiled, and smoked.
The fresh ham is the hip of the hog just as it is cut from the dressed animal. In the preparation of the boiled ham of commerce,, the greater portion of the fat is trimmed from the ham, the bones removed, and the skin again tied down over the lean ham. Then it is placed in an enormous "steamer" and thoroughly cooked. After this it is ready for sale.
The smoked ham, of the kind commonly served with eggs, is first placed in a solution of sugar, salt, and saltpeter and allowed to pickle for a period which depends upon its size. The hams are first sorted and graded into sizes; that is, those weighing eight to ten pounds, for example, will be treated as one size, and those of ten to twelve pounds as another. By this method of grading it is possible to secure a uniform pickle or cure.
After the hams have been properly cured, they are thoroughly washed in automatic washing machines and then transferred to the smokehouses on large iron carriers, or inverted "trees," from which the hams hang without touching one another. These "trees," being suspended from overhead trolleys, are easily shunted about. There are fifty hams hanging on one of these trees as it is wheeled into the smokehouse.
The smokehouses in the plant we are visiting each have five stories and the floors are a steel network. On the bottom floor of the smokehouses, fires fed with hickory wood and hardwood sawdust are smoldering. These fires send up an aromatic sweet-smelling, smoke which gives the hams a delicious flavor. The temperature of the smokerooms ranges from 100 to 130 degrees above zero. A cord to a cord and a half of wood is used in smoking a "house" of meat. Each smokehouse has a capacity of 35,000 hams or sides of bacon, and there are 26 houses in this plant. After leaving the smokeroom, the hams are branded, inspected, and sent to the shipping and packing room. The hams are now ready for the consumer.
Bacon sides go through the same process as that used in curing ham. The bacon is obtained from the breast and sides of the hog, the breast pieces being the choicest.
Pickled and salted meats. There are many varieties of vinegar-pickled, salt-pickled, and dry-salted meats, the most common of which are pickled pigs feet, pickled tongue, tripe, and salt pork of different cuts. We also have a large export trade in pickled pigs' tails and ears, but these are not generally eaten in this country.
In the curing of dry-salt pork the meat is rubbed well with salt. It is then allowed to stand in vats or in great piles on the clean floor until the salt has drawn the moisture from the meat and thoroughly cured it. A single packing plant salts many thousand pounds of pork each week.
Because of its wonderful keeping qualities, this meat is shipped to all parts of the world. It is used in the tropics because it will not ferment in the heat, and in the polar regions because cold does not affect it. This is generally true of all cured meats, but especially of the salted.
How by-products affect prices. We are told that the world's monthly meat bill amounts to almost $1,000,000,000. The bill would, no doubt, amount to several hundred million dollars more if it were not for the salvage income from the by-products of this industry, which tends to keep down the price of meat.
By-products many and varied. More than eighty different kinds of drugs are by-products of the meat industry. One American plant manufactures over seventy-five medicinal preparations, the most familiar of which, perhaps, is pepsin, extracted from the linings of pig stomachs. Rennet—best known as an essential for curdling milk in the making of cheese is also a product of this plant.
The leather in the shoes you wear is furnished by this industry. For much of the music you enjoy you are directly indebted to the live stock which contribute strings for musical instruments. Fish lines, strings for tennis rackets, and other like things come from the same source. Even the furniture maker looks to the waste of Packingtown for his glue. Buttons, ornaments, and jewelry in almost endless variety are by-products of the meat-packing industry.
Oleomargarine or "packing-house butter." One of the most important products of the modern packing plant is oleomargarine. It is often used by those who feel that they cannot afford first-class butter at current prices. It is made of milk solid or butter fat, vegetable oil, neutral, and oleo oil, or animal fat. Here is an approximate formula of a high-grade oleomargarine, or butterine, as it is sometimes called:
Oleo oil 45 per cent
Oleo oil, which is made by melting and pressing the finest beef fat, is indisputably wholesome. So is the vegetable oil. The finest quality of lard, which contains nothing impure or harmful, is known as a base for many medicinal preparations, besides serving as a body for oleomargarine.
Moisture is necessary for the working of the oleomargarine, and salt is used to add flavor and improve the keeping qualities of the food. Oleo-margarine comes out of the churn snowy white in color. If coloring is added before it is sold to the consumer an additional tax is levied upon it by the United States government.
The world's annual production of oleomargarine is between 1,500,000,000 and 2,000,000,000 pounds. Of this amount, America produces about 145,000,000 pounds. England and Germany consume nearly half of the world's total output of this food. In Denmark, a land long famous for its fine butter, an average of 25 pounds of oleomargarine to the person is eaten each year. Holland, another dairy country, consumes 20 pounds a year per capita. In the United States, the average per capita consumption of oleomargarine is only 1.5 pounds a year.