(Roughly) Daily

Posts Tagged ‘Meat

“The great packing machine ground on remorselessly, without thinking of green fields; and the men and women and children who were part of it never saw any green thing, not even a flower”*…

 

beef

 

Cheap beef and a thriving centralised meatpacking industry were the consequence of emerging technologies such as the railroad and refrigeration coupled with the business acumen of a set of honest and hard-working men like… Philip Danforth Armour. According to critics, however, a capitalist cabal was exploiting technological change and government corruption to bankrupt traditional butchers, sell diseased meat and impoverish the worker.

Ultimately, both views were correct. The national market for fresh beef was the culmination of a technological revolution, but it was also the result of collusion and predatory pricing. The industrial slaughterhouse was a triumph of human ingenuity as well as a site of brutal labour exploitation. Industrial beef production, with all its troubling costs and undeniable benefits, reflected seemingly contradictory realities.

Beef production would also help drive far-reaching changes in US agriculture. Fresh-fruit distribution began with the rise of the meatpackers’ refrigerator cars, which they rented to fruit and vegetable growers. Production of wheat, perhaps the US’s greatest food crop, bore the meatpackers’ mark. In order to manage animal feed costs, Armour & Co and Swift & Co invested heavily in wheat futures and controlled some of the country’s largest grain elevators. In the early 20th century, an Armour & Co promotional map announced that “the greatness of the United States is founded on agriculture”, and depicted the agricultural products of each US state, many of which moved through Armour facilities.

Beef was a paradigmatic industry for the rise of modern industrial agriculture, or agribusiness. As much as a story of science or technology, modern agriculture is a compromise between the unpredictability of nature and the rationality of capital. This was a lurching, violent process that saw meatpackers displace the risks of blizzards, drought, disease and overproduction on to cattle ranchers. Today’s agricultural system works similarly. In poultry, processors like Perdue and Tyson use an elaborate system of contracts and required equipment and feed purchases to maximise their own profits while displacing risk on to contract farmers. This is true with crop production as well. As with 19th-century meatpacking, relatively small actors conduct the actual growing and production, while companies like Monsanto and Cargill control agricultural inputs and market access.

The transformations that remade beef production between the end of the American civil war in 1865 and the passage of the Federal Meat Inspection Act in 1906 stretched from the Great Plains to the kitchen table. Before the civil war, cattle raising was largely regional, and in most cases, the people who managed cattle out west were the same people who owned them. Then, in the 1870s and 80s, improved transport, bloody victories over the Plains Indians, and the American west’s integration into global capital markets sparked a ranching boom. Meanwhile, Chicago meatpackers pioneered centralised food processing. Using an innovative system of refrigerator cars and distribution centres, they began to distribute fresh beef nationwide. Millions of cattle were soon passing through Chicago’s slaughterhouses each year. By 1890, the Big Four meatpacking companies – Armour & Co, Swift & Co, Morris & Co and the GH Hammond Co – directly or indirectly controlled the majority of the nation’s beef and pork…

Exploitation and predatory pricing drove the transformation of the US meat industry – and created the model for modern agribusiness: “The price of plenty: how beef changed America.”

* Upton Sinclair, The Jungle

###

As we muse on meat, we might recall that it was on this date in 1637 (or nearabouts, as closely as scholars can say) that Cardinal Richelieu introduced the first table knives (knives with rounded edges)–reputedly to cure dinner guests of the unsavory habit of picking their teeth with the knife-points of the daggers that were, until then, used to cut meat at the table (though some suspect that Richelieu was acting in self-preservation).  Indeed, years later, in 1669, King Louis XIV followed suit, forbidding pointed knives at his table; indeed, he extended the prohibition, banning pointed knives in the street in an attempt to reduce violence.

 source

 

 

Written by LW

May 14, 2019 at 1:01 am

“It was all so very businesslike that one watched it fascinated. It was pork-making by machinery, pork-making by applied mathematics.”*…

 

In the mid-to-late 1800s, the meat industry — from the cowboys and cattle drives to the Chicago slaughterhouses to the refrigerated railcars delivering steaks to New York’s finest restaurants — was the largest industry in America. At the heart of this industry were entrepreneurs like Philip Danforth Armour and Gustavus Franklin Swift, who pioneered business practices later adopted by the automobile industry and whose company names survive to this day:

“[In the meat industry in the mid-1800s], automation was the secret ingredient. Overhead wheels were introduced to carry the hog or the steer from one fixed worksta­tion to the next. Before long, this approach evolved into an over­head trolley system driven by steam engines and industrial belts. Specific repetitive tasks were assigned to each worker along what became, in effect, the first assembly line, although the actual work was disassembly. It was from studying this process in the Chicago slaughterhouses that Henry Ford came up with his own method for assembling automobiles — a development that would revolutionize mass manufacturing…

More at “The American Meat Colossus,” an excerpt from Cattle Kingdom: The Hidden History of the Cowboy West, by Christopher Knowlton.

* “It was all so very businesslike that one watched it fascinated. It was pork-making by machinery, pork-making by applied mathematics. And yet somehow the most matter-of-fact person could not help thinking of the hogs; they were so innocent, they came so very trustingly; and they were so very human in their protests – and so perfectly within their rights! They had done nothing to deserve it; and it was adding insult to injury, as the thing was done here, swinging them up in this cold-blooded, impersonal way, without pretence at apology, without the homage of a tear.”  – Upton Sinclair (author of The Jungle)

###

As we ponder protein, we might recall that it was on this date in 1921 that Canadians Sir Frederick Banting and his assistant Charles Best isolated insulin (from canine subjects).  Later that year, working with a University of Toronto colleague,  J.J.R. MacLeod, Banting developed a diabetes treatment for humans– for which he and MacLeod shared the Nobel Prize in Medicine.  Banting and Best (with whom he shared his Nobel Prize money) later improved both the sourcing process for insulin (discovering how to extract it from an intact pancreas) and the diabetes detection process.

Best (left) and Bantling with with one of the diabetic dogs used in their experiments with insulin

source

 

Written by LW

July 27, 2017 at 1:01 am

“If God did not intend for us to eat animals, then why did he make them out of meat?”*…

 

Research makes it increasingly clear that it’s dangerous to the health of both our bodies and our planet to eat too high on the food chain…. even as observations like the one that titles this post remind us that old habits are hard to change.  At the very least, we can consider the facts of the case…

The Friends of the Earth Europe (FOEE) have released a sixty-six page report on meat consumption around the globe, the Meat Atlas.

The report presents a global perspective on the impacts of industrial meat and dairy production, and illustrates its increasingly devastating impact on society and the environment. The way we produce and consume meat and dairy needs a radical rethink.

The full report (with larger graphics) is available to read/download here.  Meantime, our friends at tmBBQ have provided a helpful precis:

The narrative within the report has a definite anti-ag lean to it, and coming from Europe it’s all in metric, but the facts and statistics within are rich and varied. If you’re interested in the way we grow and process animals for human consumption, then please read the entire report, but below is an executive summary of sorts with some of the most powerful and intriguing facts about the meat we eat.

Page 10: “In the USA, the number of pig raisers fell by 70 percent between 1992 and 2009, while the pig population remained the same.”

Page 11:
Top 5 Beef Producers – USA, Brazil, European Union, China, India

Top 5 Pork Producers – China, European Union, USA, Brazil, Russia

Top 5 Poultry Producers – USA, China, Brazil, European Union, Russia

More fun food facts at “Meat Atlas.”

* John Cleese

###

As we deliberate on our diets, we might volunteer to docent in memory of Elias Ashmole, the English antiquarian, collector, politician, and student of astrology and alchemy; the first university museum– the Ashmolean– opened to the public in Oxford on this date in 1683, thus becoming the first public museum in Britain, and (probably) the world.

“The Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology,” as it was officially known, showcased Ashmole’s “Cabinet of Curiosities”– including the stuffed body of the last dodo ever seen in Europe… though owing to voracious moths and to the underdeveloped state of taxidermy at the time, it had rotted away to its head and a single claw by the time of “the unpleasantness with the American colonies,” under a hundred years later.

dodo head

The desiccated head of Ashmole’s dodo; with its foot, all that remains

source

 source

 

Written by LW

June 6, 2014 at 1:01 am

Where’s the Beef?…

Photographer Dominic Episcopo is a man of ecumenical enthusiasms– fashion, reportage and editorial, portraiture… and food.  Not content with simple still life, “The United Steaks of America” makes his meat do double duty…

As we proclaim “well done,” we might recall that it was on this date in 1954 that the first test program in FORTRAN ran.  FORTRAN (The IBM Mathematical Formula Translating System) was the first successful general purpose programming language, the first real alternative to assembly language.  It reduced the number of programming statements necessary to operate a machine by a factor of 20, so quickly gained acceptance.  It’s still in use, especially in high-performance computing.

FORTRAN coded on a punch card

Your correspondent is headed to parts distant, where connectivity is likely to be an issue.  So these missives won’t resume, at least at anything like their normal rhythm, for a week or so

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]
%d bloggers like this: