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The World's Commerce In Meats

( Originally Published 1917 )



Meat eating and national character. Many students of national traits tell us that the tendencies of a people may be read in the figures of their meat consumption. They insist that the kind and amount of meat eaten by a nation reveals the general character of its citizens and serves as a kind of thermometer of national temperament. Other equally able thinkers say that this conclusion is altogether too radical. They contend, instead, that the meat consumption of a country is really an index to the health of its people, and especially to the increase in density of its population.

Whether either of these theories is correct or incorrect, the fact remains that "meat figures" are full.of meaning, although the difficulty of obtaining reliable statistics has proved to be quite as great as the importance of the subject.

The story figures tell. Until the United States Department of Agriculture made an extensive investigation of the world's production, distribution, and consumption of meats, few dependable facts in this field of information were available.. Through the special courtesy of the Bureau of Crop Estimates, there is given in this chapter what are probably the most authentic and vital "meat figures" thus far made public.

Usually figures make rather dry reading, but this time the common rule is reversed, for the figures tell a story so big, so new, and so important that no thoughtful person can fail to be interested in what they reveal. In order to make these statements seem much more real and important, it is suggested that when you come to a line of figures, you try to see in their places the actual things for which they stand.

Our supply of beef, mutton, and pork. There are more than 61,000,000 head of cattle on United States farms. If these cattle were placed.in a line side by side, as close together as they could stand, this line would stretch around the world and still leave more than enough to extend from Maine to California. Yet, strange to say, we are forced to import cattle. In the year of 1913 we brought in almost 500,000. Although we eat more meat than any other nation, we do not by any means consume all the animals that we raise and import. If equally divided among the inhabitants of the United States our total meat consumption would amount to 170 pounds a year for each person. No other country in the world sells as much meat as the United States. In one year we sold to other nations about 2,500,000,000 pounds of beef, mutton, and pork.

Our farmers also have almost 68,000,000 head of swine. It is unnecessary for us to import swine save for foundation stock. There are about 50,000,-000 sheep on our farms and we import about 15,000 a year for choice breeding stock and over 100,000 for consumption. Of course, not all the live stock of this country is on farms or ranches. There are almost 400,000 sheep not kept on farms or ranches, and about 2,000,000 head of cattle in the villages, towns, and cities throughout the United States.

Demand for foreign meats. Although we raise and export a great amount of meat, there is a constant and growing demand for certain foreign prepared meats. We import more than 200,000,000 pounds of dressed meat a year. To get a clear idea of these imported meats you have only to visit a well-stocked delicatessen store and look at the smoked hams and other specially prepared meats, contributed to our tables by the nations of the Old World.

The Argentine stands third in the production of cattle, second in the production of sheep, and second in the exportation of meat. While this country consumes only about one twenty-fifth as much meat as the United States, its population is so small that its per capita consumption stands high in the list, the average consumption there being about 250 pounds per person a year. From the harbor of Buenos Aires, its capital, largest city and chief port, thou-sands of boats are engaged in carrying meats to all parts of the world. More than 1,000,000,000 pounds of meat is exported from this city in a single year. This includes a great quantity of frozen mutton sent to Europe, especially to the United Kingdom.

Stock raising in the Argentine. On the broad, grassy pampas of the Argentine, 29,500,000 cattle and 80,000,000 sheep are being raised to feed the people of many countries. The ranches of the Argentine are raising cattle and sheep, not only for their own use, but for those countries which are not able to produce enough 'meat to meet the needs of their own inhabitants. But the live-stock industry of the Argentine is not limited to cattle and sheep. It is estimated that the country has 3,500,000 hogs.

Australia as a meat-producing center. The only country which raises more sheep than the Argentine is Australia. There are more than 85,000,000 sheep in Australia, and its neighbor, New Zealand, has 24,000,000. The grassy steppes of Eastern and Southeastern Australia furnish pasturage for many million sheep and cattle. Here the government leases sheep ranges to the ranchers. Although Australia is about the size of the United States, there is a large area covered with mountains and deserts too barren and unproductive to furnish profitable pasturage.

Because of the great numbers of sheep and cattle raised in Australia, the diet of its people is chiefly meat. Australians eat more meat per person than do any other people. Their average consumption is 262 pounds a year, with the Argentine a close second. The people of New Zealand rank next as meat eaters, with an average consumption of 212 pounds a year each. Next comes the United States, where the average consumption is 170 pounds of meat a year for each man, woman, and child.

Yet the people of the United States consume more than fifteen times as much meat a year as do those of Australia and we export almost three times as much. In one year Australia exports about 425,000,000 pounds of meat, less than one third of which is mutton.

From what seaport do you think the greater part of the Australian meat is shipped? Find the eastern steppes of Australia and then you can tell.

Stock raising in Germany. Germany is the fifth largest cattle-raising country in the world. Before the opening of the great European war the estimated number of cattle within its borders was more than 20,000,000. In normal times Germany usually has more than 5,500,000 sheep and about 25,500,000 hogs, being surpassed in the production of swine only by the United States. But being the second largest consumer of meat, using 7,500,000,000 pounds yearly, Germany has found it necessary to become the second largest importer of dressed meat and live animals. This nation has been buying from other countries more than 500,000,000 pounds' of meat and almost 350,000 cattle, sheep, and hogs yearly. Yet you should be reminded that Germany's meat exports are small and that the German people use fish to a large degree in place of meat. In fact, they are not large meat eaters. The nation is classed eighth in per capita use of meat, the aver-age consumption being less than 112 pounds a year to the person. Germany's immense population accounts for the fact that while her meat consumption is exceeded in volume by that of only one nation, her per capita use of meat is low.

' How England is fed. We are told that if the people of, England could not get food from other nations, they would starve within six months. This, of course, is because the country is so thickly populated that the soil cannot produce food enough to feed the inhabitants. So England, being dependent upon other countries for her food supply, is naturally the largest importer of foods of all kinds. The only food of which England has a sufficient supply is fish. But if her people were forced to live entirely on fish, supposing that were possible, they would soon learn that the waters about them could not meet the demand made upon them.

The United Kingdom consumes in one year about 5,175,000,000 pounds of beef, mutton, and pork. The United States, Germany, and Russia are, in fact, the only countries eating more meat than the United Kingdom. The latter stands seventh among the nations of the world in per capita consumption of meat, its average being 119 pounds to the person.

But England has colonies that produce great quantities of meat and other food supplies for her. Of the 2,985,000,000 pounds of meat imported by the United Kingdom in one year, many million pounds came from its colonies, especially from Australia and New Zealand. South Africa, Canada, and even India also contribute largely. But the 2,985,000,000 pounds of meat imported in one year is not all the meat the United Kingdom has had to buy from other countries. To this must be added about 64,000 live cattle and sheep.

Meat supply and increase of population. There was a time when the European countries, which are now importing billions of ,pounds of meat each year, were raising more meat than they really needed, just as our western plains once grazed many more cattle than we needed for our own consumption. But as the population of a country increases, the land as "a matter of course is divided into smaller units. Then open ranges and ranches become cultivated farms devoted to field crops and to gardening. Villages replace the farms and gardens and the villages in turn grow into towns and cities. So the cattle or sheep range of to-day is the farm of to-morrow and the city of another year. That is why, within a short time, Russia and the Argentine will be selling much meat to the countries that now look largely to the United States for their supply. But the United States is capable of producing a great deal more meat than she now turns out, so it will probably be a long time before we are forced to look to other countries for our own supply.

In certain European countries the flesh of the horse is eaten. Germany, for instance, in one year ate more than 120,000,000 pounds of meat other than beef, pork, and mutton. This included game, of course, but in European countries game is not abundant enough to make much difference in the total meat supply.

How Nature affects cattle raising. If we were to take a geography and attempt to determine where most of the world's cattle are now raised, and where they are likely to be raised in a few years, we would find several important things to be considered. First, there is population. It is practically impossible, for a densely populated country like England to raise enough cattle to feed its own people, although the number of cattle to the square mile in such a country may be large. England has about 667 persons to the square mile and 10.4 cattle. The Argentine has about 7 persons and 27 cattle to the square mile. In the United States there are about 33 people and 20 cattle to the square mile. Second, the physical features of the countries have much to do with the raising of live stock. For instance, stock cannot be raised in the deserts of Africa as it can upon the rich and fertile prairies of the United States or on the grassy pampas of the Argentine.

Third, there are countries where the climate makes it practically impossible to graze cattle, sheep, or swine. In Northern Canada and Northern Siberia, the intense cold makes the raising of these animals impossible. Also, there are countries where it is too hot and too wet to raise live stock, and where insect pests are a standing peril. Fourth, there is vegetation. In the hot, damp countries swamps and jungles abound which offer practically no pasturage to the domestic animals of our plains. In the Far North grow grasses and moss that will sustain reindeer but not cattle. In certain parts of the Sahara vegetation occurs which will nourish the camel, but on which our stock could not live.

So we find that there are parts of the world highly favored by nature for the production of live stock. It is to these countries that the world is now looking for its supply of meat. Suppose you make a list of ten countries which are especially well supplied in this respect and then learn how many people there are to the square mile in those countries.



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