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In June last the Assistant Secretary of State, Hon. James D. Porter, inclosed a dispatch from the American consul at Sydney, New South Wales, asking information relative to the dressed or "chilled meat industry” of this country, which the Government of New South Wales, through its proper officers, had requested. After a thorough investigation as to the extent and importance of this industry, the following reply to the questions propounded by the colonial government was forwarded to the Assistant Secretary of State:
The dressed-meat traffic in the United States is conducted, almost exclusively, by firms employing large amounts of capital and many men in the work. The greater part of the slaughtering is done in Kansas City, Mo., in Omaha, Nebr., Saint Louis, M2., and in Chicago, Ill. All of these places are centers to which the live stock of the Western and Middle States are sent for sale. The slaughter-houses are in nearly every instance near the stock-yards in which the animals to be slaughtered are received from the railroads, and are fed, watered, or sold, or are shipped to other markets. Firms engaged in the dressed-meat traffic employ professional buyers, who receive liberal salaries for their services, because of their ability to judge accurately of the weight and quality of the animals offered for sale. In all cases the cattle or sheep are weighed after purchase, the price per cental having been first agreed upon by the purchaser and the seller. The scales are so arranged that from 50 to 80 cattle may be weighed together upon the platform.
Within the last two years an abattoir has been established on the line of the Northern Pacific Railway, in Dakota, for the purpose of killing cattle grazed and fattened on the range near the abattoir, and of sending the beef from such cattle in refrigerator cars or vans to the markets of the Eastern States and of Great Britain and the Continent.
2. “In what part of the States is it carried on ?".
Chiefly in eastern Kansas, in Nebraska, Missouri, and Illinois. At Kansas City large numbers of cattle, sheep, and swine are received from Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Texas, the Indian Territory, Kansas, and Missouri. At Omaha live stock from Idaho, Utah, Wyoming, Kansas, Dakota, and Nebraska are received. The stock so received is either sold to resident buyers, who slaughter in houses in the towns named, or who ship to other markets farther east, or the animals are forwarded to those other markets without having been sold. Agents of the refrigerator-car companies are called upon to furnish cars for a large number of western points, some of them in the heart of the range country, where "grass-fed ” cattle are cheap and abundant. Cattle that could not endure the hardships of transportation “ on the hoof” can be shipped in refrigerator-cars with profit.
3. “Is the business carried on to the same extent all the year round, or more at one season than at another; and if it varies, why?"
This business is carried on throughout every month in the year, and the traffic is extending each year into more distant parts, the extent of the trade depending largely upon the available supply of cattle, and not upon the condition of the weather; for heat or cold in the weather seems to have little effect upon the volume of the business. In the winter it is as necessary that the meats shall be kept from freezing as it is that they shall be protected from the effects of heat in summer. The receipts of dressed beef at New York City may be taken as showing fairly the volume of the traffic, month by month, throughout the year. Therefore the subjoined statement has been prepared. As the greater part of the traffic in dressed beef has its origin in Chicago, another statement has been prepared showing the number of tons (2,000 pounds) sent to eastern markets by Chicago houses. That question, No. 18, "What proportion does the dead-meat trade now bear to the fatstock trade?" may be answered at the same time, in convenient form. I have included in that table shipments of cattle from Chicago to the same eastern markets for the same years.
Statement in tons of dressed beef received at New York between January 1, 1882,
and December 31, 1885, by months.
In July of each year cattle from Texas and the plains of the Southwest generally begin to reach the great live-stock markets named above. The arrivals gradually increase in number until they are joined, in August and later, by cattle from the ranges of the States and Territories farther north. The receipts of the plains cattle continue until December, at which time the supply from the plains ceases; but its place is at once occupied in the market by the stock which has fattened on the grass of the pastures of the States east of the Missouri River.
Comparative statement of shipments of cattle and dressed beef from Chicago dur
ing the calendar years 1880 to 1835, inclusive.
New York City
182, 199 45, 112 39,931 87.724 23, 235 22, 823 6,916 7,676 2,587 60, 252
Cattle .. 222, 262 205, 367 257, 281 238, 828 191,736
75, 680 Beef
54, 815 9, 860
14, 405 18,683 29, 139 29,614 Cattle
30, 403 36, 137 20.225 15, 759 Beef
10 475 9.033 14, 299 Cattle
8,167 6, 211
4,160 4, 208
630 6,237 10, 619
5,893 8,746 1,308 572
878 2,577 5 515 Beef
1,592 Cattle 416,204 433,600 383,660 372, 214 310,410 Beef. 30, 705 43,774 65,775 149, 640 184,993
199 14,041 15, 803 9,439
1,359 281,022 231, 034
4. “Do those engaged in it carry on the trade on their own account as dealers in stock or in meat, or as agents for others? If as agents, on what terms?"
This trade is in the control of firms using their own capital, owning the slaughterhouses, and, in some cases, the refrigerator-cars used in the business. These firms buy, kill, transport, and, in some places, even retail their meats to the consumers. At the termini they have built and own cold-storage rooms for their own uses, and
are in almost every way independent of all outside dealers or agents so far as concerns the buying of the cattle in the markets of the West, the selling to the actual consumer in the East, and all intermediate transactions necessary to the business, except the hauling of the refrigerator-cars over the railways. I do not intend to convey the idea that the firms in the business do sell large quantities of their meats to the consumer, for they do not; but they are able to do so at any time. They do not carry on any part of the business as agents for others.
5. “How are the stock awaiting slaughter kept?”
Beeves and sheep are bought from day to day at the stock-yards named above. The supply is scarcely ever below the needs of the shippers of dressed beef or mutton; therefore there is never any need of keeping a supply on hand for the next coming day. On arrival in the stock-yards, usually at an early hour in the morning, the stock receives hay. After eating the hay they receive water in practically unlimited quantities. They are then, if sold, weighed and delivered to the buyer. His assistants drive the stock to the slaughter-houses near, and there they are killed, very often almost immediately after arrival at the slaughter-houses."
6. "Describe the yards, slaughter-houses, and appurtenances, sending plans and lithographs, where procurable."
The stock-yards of Chicago are the largest in the world, and may be considered representative yards; but they are perhaps less perfectly planned than are those built at a comparatively recent date in Kansas City, Mo. The latter are upon the sandy bank of the Kaw River, to which the drainage of the yards flows through the sewers of ample size. These sewers underlie nearly every street in the yard, as their branches underlie nearly every alley. The area covered by the yards is divided by the streets and alleys into blocks as nearly square as the nature of the ground permits. The blocks are subdivided into pens of various sizes by fences, made of strong cedar posts, deeply planted in the earth, and of pine planks 2 inches thick firmly nailed to the posts. The planks are 6 inches wide, and are surmounted by a broad plank 2 inches thick, extending along the entire length of the fences, including the tops of the many gates. This broad plank thus affords a continuous walk from one part of the yards to any other part, high above the ground. At frequent intervals elevated bridges span the streets and alleys, that there may be no necessity for descending to the level of the ground. To each block a letter is given to distinguish it from the others; as “Block A," etc. To each pen in a block a number is given. When a lot of stock is put into a pen a record is made on the books of the company operating the yards; as, for illustration, if a car-load of cattle were received for John Doe, the record would read, “ 16 cattle, John Doe, lot 34, Block C.” At convenient places in the yards scales are placed for weighing the stock. These scales are made expressly for this purpose, and are each covered by a substantially built house. Of their capacity something has been said above. The pens are floored with pine planks 4 inches thick, resting on other planks of like description. The latter rest in turn, upon their edges, upon plank lying on the ground. In cases where the pens are not so floored they are paved or macadamized. For cattle pens no roofs are provided, but pens for sheltering hogs and sheep are roofed. In every pen is a water-trough of ample size, filled, when desired, from cocks in pipes connecting with a water-tank. In Chicago the water supply is taken from a stand-pipe 100 feet in height and 7 feet in diameter. This pipe is filled by engines driving strong pumps taking their supply from artesian wells, some 1,200 to 1,300 feet deep. The stock-yards of Chicago cover 360 acres.
The slaughter-houses are of brick. From the stock pens at one side of the houses an inclined plane 7 or 8 feet wide extends to the height of the second floor. Between the side of the building and the drive-way mentioned is a row of pens, each 8 feet long and 4 feet wide. Each of these pens connects by a strong door with the drive-way, and at the other end is another door, covered by a plate of iron, through which door access can be had to the interior of the slaughter-house. In the operation of the business cattle are driven up the inclined plane to the level drive-way, and a gate closed behind them. The gates of the small pens are open, and the cattle naturally enter to escape the crowd and the shouting drivers behind. Only one animal, or at most two small beasts, can enter one of these pens at a time. The door is closed behind the animal, and it finds itself imprisoned in a space so small that it can not turn itself around, but must stand with its nose close to the iron-clad door beyond which are the butchers. Over the heads of the beasts awaiting death is a running board or walk 1 foot wide. Along this goes a man armed with a rifle carrying a ball 44-100 caliber, or with a piece of iron pipe three-fourths of an inch in diameter, in the end of which a lance-shaped point has been fastened. With the rifle placed within a few inches of the head of the animal the trigger is pulled, and the heavy ball tears its way down through the medulla oblongata and the brain ; or if the lance is used, the spinal cord is severed by its sharp edge. Either way causes instant death. The iron-clad door is raised when the butchers within are ready, and a chain is passed around the horns of the beast. This chain is operated by a steam-engine, and quickly drags the bullock into the dressing-room, where it lies upon a floor sloping slightly toward a gutter, through which runs a stream of water carrying away all the blood and offal that is not saved in the operations of slaughtering. When the throat of the bullock is cut the blood is caught in shallow pans and saved. The skin is quickly stripped from the warm carcass, which is then hoisted by steam machinery, split along the backbone, and the sides, hanging by hooks depending by wheels running upon a suspended rail of iron, are pushed into the cooling room, there to hang until their temperature shall have fallen to that of the outer air. The sides are then taken to the chill-room to be kept until they shall be ready and wanted for shipment.
7. “What is the cost of slaughtering the stock?"
No definite answer can be given to query No. 7, for the reason that so many elements enter into the cost that it is quite impossible for any one not having access to the books of the slaughterers to arrive at it. The cost varies, being less in some houses having the best appliances and superior management than it is in smaller or less completely appointed establishments, or in large ones not as nicely managed as the others. Those engaged in the business naturally object to telling what the cost is of their operations.
8. “Are beasts slaughtered at a price for their owners; if so, at what rate ?"
As a rule animals are not so slaughtered. It is said, however, that it is the intention of those who have recently started slaughtering establishments in the plains country of the West to slaughter stock for any and all who may bring to them a car-load or more at a time for that purpose.
9. "Are fat, tongues, or other offal taken by slaughterers as part payment for their work ?"
This query is answered elsewhere. 10. “Describe the chill-rooms, how they are built, and of what material.” Chill-rooms are prepared by making, next to their walls, a dead air space as nearly air-tight as possible. In some of the rooms racks or cribs rise from the floor of the room to that of the room next above. These cribs are filled from time to time with ice, traps in the floor above being opened for that purpose. Means for ventilation are provided at the top of the chill-room. In most chill-rooms and cold storage houses in the North naturally-formed ice is used; but in the cold storage houses in the South artificial means are used for reducing the temperature. They are of brick or of wood.
11. “Describe the cooling machinery, and state which is best.”.
Without personal experience of the workings of the different kinds of refriger. ating machinery, I would not be competent to decide as to which is the best adapted to the purposes of the dressed beef business.
12. "What are the modes, extent, and cost of cooling meats, per pound or per carcass ?"
Without knowing the cost of ice, of coal or other fuel, and the other elements of cost, it will be difficult to answer the question quoted, and the operators are as reluctant about answering this as they are about replying to other queries relating to the cost of the several operations necessary to their business. The
cost of the operation may be ascertained approximately from the statements of the makers of the cooling-machines in the circulars sent herewith.
13. * Describe the van by which the meat is carried by rail, the mode of sending it, and give full details as to how cold is provided on the way, where necessary, and the cost."
Several different cars are used for the purpose of carrying fresh meat long distances by rail. Of these, the oldest in use is that invented some twenty years ago by Mr. W. W. Chandler. Since that gentleman put the first refrigerator car into service hundreds of patents have been taken out in the United States for devices of the kind. Of these none are more generally used than is the one known as the Tiffany refrigerator car. As at present constructed, these are 30 feet long inside, and provided with hooks for suspending the fore and hind quarters, into which the meat is cut just before it is placed in the car. In the top of the car are ice-boxes, which are filled with ice before the meat is placed in the car. The car is closed as quickly as possible after the meat has been put in. From thirty to sixty minutes are required in loading a car with 20,000 pounds of beef quarters, four men clad in white frocks doing the work. While hanging in the cooling or chill room the beef is usually in halves, or "sides,” and is cut apart by workmen as it leaves the scale where it is weighed, at the place of loading. The ice-tanks are examined two or three times on the way from Chicago to New York or Boston, or once in twentyfour or thirty-six hours, and, if necessary, are replenished with fresh ice and salt. The larger concerns attend to this at their own expense, having ice and men ready at the stations where required. The cost depends upon the condition of the weather at the time the beef is in transit and also at the time of putting up the ice used. In a favorable winter ice can be housed in the North for less than one dollar per ton. From 1,000 to 2,000 pounds are placed in each car, the quantity depending on the season. During the hottest part of August last dressed beef was sent from Chicago to New York and to Boston in cars in which 900 pounds of ice were placed at Buffalo, and 600 pounds at Albany, to replace that which was put in before starting from Chicago. Several cars safely took their loads of beef from Chicago to New York using only 1,800 pounds of ice on the trip. It may be said that the average cost of icing will range from $5 to $7 per car at each icing station.
14. “Say how trains with chilled meats are run, the distances they run, their average speed, and the average cost per mile per ton or per body for carrying and keeping cool.”
It is the custom with railroad companies carrying meats from Chicago to make up special trains carrying fresh meats and other perishable freight to the sea-board. Each day such a train, consisting of 20 to 30 cars, is made up, to which are added those containing butter, cheese, and fruits, all in refrigerator cars. Such trains run at the rate of 25 to 30 miles per hour, including stoppages. Trains not infrequently make the run from Chicago to Buffalo, 523 miles, in 36 hours, including one stop at Cleveland when it is found necessary to ice there. As Buffalo is a common point at which eastward-bound trains meet on their way from the West to New York and Boston, all refrigerator cars are examined there, and iced if re-icing appears to be required.
The tariff rate on dressed beef is 65 cents per cental from Chicago to New York. To this charge is to be added the cost of icing as given above. In answering the above questions, I have been largely guided by the conditions of the trade of Chicago, because this city has done by far the greater part of the dressed meat business of this country. In the year 1884 shipments of dressed beef from Chicago amounted to 694,026 carcasses, and they have since that time increased. Perishable property is, it may be added here, carried to the Atlantic sea-board in refrigerator cars named from points 1,000 miles or more west and southwest from Chicago, at which points the temperature ranges from 90° to 100° F. in the shade during the heated months. In trips through such heated districts new supplies of ice are put into the tanks of the cars three times in each thousand miles.
15. “Whether the meat ever arrives in bad condition. If it does, what is the cause, and the percentage of loss from this cause."
In the earlier days of this business, when people were experimenting for the purpose of overcoming the obstacle then met, some cargoes reached their destination in bad order, the cause having been imperfect insulation and the ignorance of employés; but it is now held that there is little if any risk of loss in shipping fresh meats or other perishable property. The percentage of loss of goods in refrigerator cars is too small to be estimated.
16. “What are the form and construction of the meat markets, and of the cold store attached; the rate of the market dues, and the charges per day for keeping meats in the chill-rooms ?".
As the markets are largely owned or rented by private parties who make leases, when they do lease, upon private terms, no answer that would have value in another country or in other conditions, can be made. In a few cities stalls are rented by retailers from municipal authorities; but the rates and conditions vary greatly. In regard to the construction of the markets it may perhaps be well to try to answer by describing the retail market of one Chicago firm which ships large quantities of fresh beef to the Eastern States, to Europe, and to many interior points in this country. In the market referred to a counter extends the entire length of the room, the walls of which are frequently covered by a coating of whitewash, and the floor thickly carpeted each day with fresh, clean pine sawdust. Through the middle of the room is a row of square pine posts supporting the floor above. These posts are also whitewashed, and each has attached to it brackets which support bunches of fresh flowers during the seasons when flowers bloom in the open air. The top of the counter on which the meat is served to customers is of marble, smoothly polished. Behind the counter are rows of strong hooks upon which are suspended à few, and only a few, pieces of meat in a fresh state, most of the meats thereon being cured hams or bacon, or sausage. On the heavy cutting blocks under the rows of hooks the butchers cut such pieces as the buyers require. Immediately after the wants of the buyer are satistied the quarter of beef from which the cuts have been taken is returned to the cool room from which it was brought. It remains there until another piece is wanted for another buyer. Scales are suspended behind the counter for weighing the meats as they are served to the buyers. The