Other formats

    Adobe Portable Document Format file (facsimile images)   TEI XML file   ePub eBook file  


    mail icontwitter iconBlogspot iconrss icon

The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 29

American Meat; How it Comes

American Meat; How it Comes.

A few days ago we inspected in Liverpool a cargo of beef and mutton on board the White Star ship Celtic, which had just arrived from New York. We were present when the refrigerating rooms were opened, and the beef and mutton exposed to view. These rooms run along either side of the ship, and the quarters of beef are suspended in them from hooks in the ceiling, and hung as close together as possible. Some of the carcases of mutton lie underneath, on the floors of the compartments. Each quarter of beef, and each carcass of mutton is sewn up nicely in coarse but clean canvas. While on board, whatever it may be afterwards, the meat is not at all "messed," and what we saw was to all appearance as fresh as if killed only the day before. We were present while a great deal of the meat was discharged, and we examined many specimens of it—finding nothing whatever about it which could be regarded as objectionable, either in appearance or in odour. On the contrary, all of it was scrupulously clean, fresh, sweet, and in good order in all respects. The very blood on the "sticking" parts was quite fresh-looking. None of the meat was flabby or faded in any respect, nor had the juices gravitated towards the bottom of the quarters as they hung, or discoloured the cloths. It was indeed evident to the most unpractised person that the process of decay in this meat had been, during the whole voyage, most thoroughly and completely suspended. Nor does the temperature in the rooms even approach nigh to freezing; it is maintained at 37 deg. to 40 deg.; this would not freeze even water or anything else, and flesh-meat freezes only at a lower temperature than water does.

The refrigerating-rooms—if they really merit the name when they do not freeze what they contain—are as perfectly air-tight as possible. They are constructed of page 195 several thicknesses of boards, with non-conducting material between them. The apertures in the sides of the rooms through which the meat is extracted when it is being discharged, extend from near the floor to near the ceiling, say some five feet six inches square, leaving a rim, against which the removable door is tightly fastened, a flange of India-rubber coming between it and the rim all the way round. This door itself also consists of four or five thicknesses of board, which are interspaced with air-tight and non-conducting material, similar to the ordinary walls of the rooms, and it is firmly bolted to the walls.

At the head of the two rooms running down the sides of the ship, and which contain the meat, is a room whose walls are of zinc; this is filled with blocks of ice. In this room is a fan driven by steam, which causes a current of cold air to continually circulate through the whole space of the rooms which contain the meat. This current of air enters the meat-rooms at the floor, close to the ice-room, and is again withdrawn from them by means of pipes which conduct it back to the ice-room. This withdrawal occurs at the far end of the meat-rooms, near to the ceiling, to which the air, whether vitiated or not by damp or odour, is compelled to rise. The fan does the double duty of driving the air through the rooms and of bringing it back to the ice-room. Thus the air circulates continually, first through the ice, then amongst the meat. By passing through the ice-room the air loses each time any moisture it may have contracted in its journey amongst the carcases, and it is consequently sent on again in its mission dried and purified. The whole arrangement is very simple, though it can scarcely be regarded as inexpensive. But in any ease it is thoroughly effective, and the successful importation of dead meat from the other side of the Atlantic in now tin fait accompli.

Two processes of preserving the meat en route were tried before the one whose results we examined, but these have been, to a great extent, discarded, because of certain imperfections. The cold, dry air process, however, has now been at work for about eighteen months, bringing fresh meat from America to England, and during that time not a single carcass of meat has been lost through imperfect preservation. It is known as "Bates' refrigerating process," and is patented in America, Canada, and England.

Though the cost of the ocean transit of this meat may be large, it is certainly much less than it would be if the meat were brought over alive instead of dead. Many fat animals from abroad, on arriving at our ports, are in such a state of fever and excitement, that, if killed at once, their flesh is found, we believe, to keep badly. It is, in fact, in an already advanced stage of decay before it is killed; and if killed immediately on landing, before the animal has had time to get cool, composed, and healthy again, the meat will quickly go bad. An animal fresh from the pasture or feeding-stall is not in this state.

The question obviously thrusts itself upon us here—Why cannot our Continental flesh-meat come to us as the American does—already killed and preserved by the cold-air process? About the feasibility of the matter there is no longer any room for doubt. It is a strong piece of infatuation that induces us to permit it to come in any other way, when we see it, time after time, bringing us one form or another of disease, which lurks in the systems of the animals which are sent over to us alive from Germany, and elsewhere—Germany more particularly. It is to the interest of every stock-fanner in the United Kingdom, nay it is his duty, to demand that this foreign fat cattle trade shall cease, and the meat shall come to us already killed. The Americans have clearly demonstrated that the meat can be sent to us—slaughtered at the port of embarkation—perfectly fresh and sweet all the year round; and now we have only our own fatuity to blame if we allow foreign diseases to be any longer imported to our country by the means of foreign live stock which is sent to us. We must not rest until we have obtained an edict suppressing in the future the importation of fat cattle from any country whatever which has sent us in the past diseases we did not bargain for. The arguments in favour of this are, in our opinion, irrefutable. The English farmer has no need to fear fair competition, but the competition which brings diseases as well as meat, is anything but a fair one to him.