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Average Wholesale Prices Of Beef

( Originally Published Early 1900's )



Average wholesale selling prices per hundred lbs. of beef in four important cities for the pre-war year 1914, and foil each of the past five fiscal years.

1914 1921 1922 1923 1924 1925

New York $12.24 $14.99 $13.69 $14.78 $15.08 $15.05

Philadelphia 12.33 14.81 13.32 14.39 14.59 14.30

Washington 12.19 15.06 13.31 14.26 14.72 14.90

Chicago 11.59 13.61 11.86 12.80 12.94 12.64

Average 4 city 12.09 14.62 13.04 14.06 14.33 14.22

On this basis, the author added 90% to the average wholesale price of beef, which gives an arbitrary selling price of 25 cents per lb. Assuming a selling price of 25 cents per lb. for all meat sold, the result shows an expenditure of $39.07 per capita yearly for meats and lard.

Retail Sales Near $5,000,000,000

Multiplying the estimated population of 117,000,000 people in the United States by $39.07, the estimated annual expenditure for meat, would give the figure of $4,571,190,000 worth of meat sold over the retail counter.

By comparing the above figures to the results of a government survey, it will be noted that there is a comparatively small difference in the amount of money expended per capita for meats. The government survey reports that the average cost of the meat used per week in 2,479 American white homes was $3.49.

For the poor class households of this group, the cost averaged $2.73. The middle class household's average of $3.13 was somewhat higher. The well-to-do class household averaged $3.50 and the average cost in the wealthy group of households was $5.03. The average number of persons in these city households was 4.6, making the average per capita charge for meat, on a yearly basis, $39.45. The average weekly cost in different foreign groups ranged from $2.16 for Italian families up to $3.96 for Russian families.

Estimates Conservative

That the figure of the 25 cents per lb. average is conservative can be estimated by the table furnished by the United States Bureau of Census, showing the average retail prices of steaks, roasts and pork chops, bacon and lard. The average price of these six items amounts to 35 cents per lb.

The foregoing figures, although estimated, do not fail to indicate the tremendous volume of business done over the retail meat counter, and they also show the great importance of the retail meat industry.

The average wholesale price on all the above products is a fraction of a cent below 16 cents per lb. By adding 50% to the PRIME cost, it would give a retail selling price of 24 cents per lb., average, but as this percentage is considered low on the majority of meat products, especially carcasses, a larger percentage must be added to bring the retailer 25 cents per lb., average.

In judging the amount of business done in the retail meat industry, it must also be taken into consideration that all the figures given above cover meat sales only and do not include poultry and fish, which are also handled extensively by the meat retailer.

Number of Persons in Retail Meat Industry

The United States Bureau of Census lists a total of over 1,328,275 retail dealers of all kinds in the United States. There are 122,105 butchers and meat dealers listed, which would indicate that approximately 10% of the total retailers in the United States are meat dealers. This number is only exceeded by grocery stores, which number 239,236. Since there are many grocery stores that also handle meats, a considerable percentage of these grocery stores could be classified as partial meat markets, which would bring the percentage up considerably.

The 122,105 persons engaged as butchers and meat retailers are divided into the following groups :

Male 120,940
Farm Born White 47,708
Female 1,165
Negro 3,009
Native White 71,122

The government lists "butchers" which includes managers of stores in addition to the market owners. Therefore, according to government figures, there were during 1920 when this census was taken a total of over 122,000 meat market proprietors in existence.

According to lists compiled by business firms, there is a discrepancy between the government list and the lists furnished by firms in 1927. From all latest statistics available, the table No. 7 given herewith represents the number of meat markets in the United States. It must further be taken into consideration that there is a great number of grocery stores selling meats, which would increase this number considerably.

Accordingly, an industry which maintains 122,105 retail stores, and whose estimated sales of products originating on the American farm run over $4,571,190,000 yearly, can certainly lay claim to importance as a basic national, highly essential industry.

Supplying the Retailer

To supply the meat retailer with these products, over 1,400 meat packing plants operate in the United States. One of the large meat packing concerns employs as many as 4,000 salesmen, and it is estimated that there are over 15,000 meat salesmen constantly on the road to supply the demands of retailers and others with dressed meats. Four of the large meat packers, alone, operate a fleet of 17,809 refrigerator cars, while other packers maintain a fleet of refrigerator cars numbering many thousands. It requires over 20,000 refrigerator cars to supply the meat retailer.

Although our present day meat merchant may not be a skillful butcher and pride himself on his skill in dressing cattle, he certainly has enough reasons to be proud of being of importance in such an industry as that of supplying food to the American public.

Meat Consumption

Compiled and Commented on by the U. S. Department of Agriculture

The following tables show the annual trend of the production, exports, imports, and consumption of meat in the United States. The estimates are based on the federally inspected slaughter and begin with the calendar year 1907, as that was the first full year the Federal inspection was in operation on its present scale. The figures for meat production under Federal inspection since 1919 are as compiled and published by the Bureau of Agricultural Economics. Other classes of slaughter are estimated by use of average carcass weights and average dressing percentages derived from packers and stockyards data, census reports, etc. Spoilage of meat is allowed for only in respect to that which is condemned under the Federal inspection.

The slaughter each year is accurate so far as the number of animals slaughtered under U. S. inspection is concerned. Ratios are established for the remaining slaughter which are subject to changes due to more recent data from census and other sources. The annual ratios of cattle and calf slaughter are estimated by the method of Dr. McPhee, of the Animal Husbandry Division of this Bureau.

The slaughter and consumption totals in the meat tables are computed from a dressed-weight basis, the edible offal (liver, pluck, etc.) not being included. This exclusion is offset by the fact that the dressed carcasses contain inedible material in the form of bones and waste trimmings. Thus the figures represent approximately actual meat, and, as such, are comparable with similar data for other countries.

The foreign-trade figures are from reports of the Department of Commerce (exports) and Bureau of Animal Industry (imports). The exports are converted into dressed equivalent weights before deduction from the consumption totals.

Per Capita Consumption in Various Countries

"For comparisons with the United States totals table 12 is given showing meat consumption in such other countries as there are estimates available for. Very little recent data of this kind have been published, however, because of the unsettled conditions following the war. The figures in most cases cover pre-war consumption in the various countries. Meat-consumption data for Great Britain and Germany have been published frequently and the figures in the table are averages for a series of years. The estimates for most countries are as published in Report 109, United States Department of Agriculture, Meat Situation in the United States, issued in 1916.

It will be noted there are three countries only which have a consumption per head of the population greater than the United States, and in every case these are countries of sparse population and large surpluses of cattle and sheep. Argentina, Australia, and New Zealand are now the great sources of the world's surplus of beef and mutton. Consequently in such countries these products are abundant, and cheap, to say nothing of the probable waste in their use, which would add further to the quantity reported for home consumption.

The estimate for Argentina appeared in an article in the official monthly bulletin of the Argentine Department of Agriculture for March, 1914. As it is the highest meat-consuming country in the list, a brief outline of the method of making the estimate may be of interest.

The total cattle and sheep slaughtered were first ascertained by taking the number of hides and skins reported during the year to be used in the country and exported. After certain deductions and allowances for meat exports, dead animals, etc., it is calculated that 4,292,841 head of cattle (including 25 per cent of calves), were consumed in Argentina. An average weight of 225 kilograms (496 lbs.), is allowed for these animals, which, divided by an assumed population of 8,000,000 gives the per capita consumption of beef and and veal as 121 kilograms (266% lbs.). A similar calculation with sheep makes the per capita of mutton 12 kilograms (26% lbs.). The author then quotes the per capita consumption of beef, mutton and pork at the capital (Buenos Aires), previously ascertained, and these totals are adopted as the estimate for the whole of Argentina, although it may be noted that the figure for beef is 26/ lbs. less than the one first calculated. It may be stated also that published statistics show the per capita consumption in large cities to be in general considerably greater than for a whole country, which would indicate that the figures for Argentina are probably higher than is actually the case.

In six of the countries in the table the data includes the pro-portion consumed of each kind of meat. These figures indicate that (1) the people of Argentina consume the most beef; (2) the British meat dietary has the closest balance of beef, mutton and pork and by far the largest proportion of mutton; and (3) the Germans are, proportionately the largest pork consumers, although more pork products are consumed per head in both Canada and the United States.



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