The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 79
. . The . . Frozen Meat Industry of New Zealand
. . The . . Frozen Meat Industry of New Zealand.
Like all other commercial, industrial, and national projects, the frozen meat industry originated and has since been based on the ancient, universal, and continuous law of Supply and Demand.
Labour Unions may pass resolutions attacking the Capitalists and calling on the Government of the day to provide relief legislation. Royal Commissions may be appointed to enquire into the cause of rise and fall in prices of commodities and suggest methods of alleviation. Boards of Trade may be given temporary powers to deal with unusual and acute positions such as those arising from the great War, and even a despotic and absolute dictator (such as we see in Germany) may be placed in charge of a nation's food supply, and yet in the end each and all are forced back into submission to the great natural law of Supply and Demand.
Let us see how this has applied to the rise of the great frozen meat industry in New Zealand. Taking first the demand, the following table will show the population at different periods as compared with the number of live stock in the United Kingdom.
|Year.||Population.||Live Stock. Cattle, Sheep & Pigs.|
|Average quantity of Meat Imported per head Population.|
|1851||4¾d. lb.||.01 lbs.|
|1881||8¼d. lb.||3.5 lbs.|
The dwindling flocks and herds compared with the increasing population in United Kingdom had given rise to considerable food for thought and the matter was frequently discussed in Parliament.
Turning now to the supply (from New Zealand) the following table will show the enormous increase of the flocks and herds in New Zealand.
In the sixties and seventies in New Zealand, sheep had increased so rapidly that there was no means of dealing profitably with the surplus stock. Boiling down for the sake of the tallow was the only outlet and large numbers of sheep were often sold for 6d to 1s per head. Sheep were grown solely for the wool, the carcase being practically of no value. Indeed, it is related that the surplus flocks in some districts were driven over the cliffs into the sea, this being the only practicable means of getting rid of them. Even forty years ago it was not an uncommon thing for prime legs of mutton to be sold at 6d each. Mr C. J. Monro states that in Nelson he remembers a line of 1000 prime wethers being sold for £30 for the lot.
Here then we had a great and increasing demand for meat food on the one side of the world, and an enormous and prolific supply on the other, yet separated by half the circumference of the globe, and the problem was to find a means of preventing natural decay while trans-porting.page 5
Very many methods of preserving meat were tried, some were utter failures and others were in a measure successful; but real success was not attained until refrigeration was adopted and improved on. It is difficult to realise that only about 35 years have elapsed since one of the most important of the world's industries was inaugurated and compare it with the enormous and increasing trade of the present day.
And yet the whole of this great industry, and I may add to a very great extent the general prosperity and advancement of New Zealand hangs on the slender piston rod of a refrigerating machine.
Imagine what this country would be like if we were unable to export our surplus meat, butter, cheese, etc. Instead of land being worth up to £60 and £70 per acre, it would probably not be worth as many shillings, and stock would be practically unsaleable. Instead of prosperous and growing towns such as Palmerston North, Feilding etc. we would have little more than back-blocks settlement.
We cannot therefore think too highly of the services rendered Australasia by the pioneers of the industry who risked so much, and sometimes ruined themselves in the endeavours to solve the great problem of successful preservation of animal food. All honour to the brave and resourceful men who despite many failures and apparently insuperable difficulties persevered and finally brought the industry to a successful conclusion.
Referring briefly to some of the prominent pioneers in Australia, we have Thomas Sutcliffe Mort who arrived in Sydney in about 1838, and founded the well-known firm of Goldsborough, Mort and Co., and established the first freezing works in the world at Darling Harbour, Sydney, in 1861. Mr Mort spent a large fortune (about (£80,000) in experiments in connection with frozen meat export.
Then there was James Harrison who emigrated to Sydney in 1837, who was originally a journalist, but took up land and experimented in ice-making machinery. In 1851 he erected' the first refrigerator in the world, and at Melbourne in 1873 he exhibited several carcases of sheep that had been frozen for six months and were then in good condition for food. Like Mort he spent a large fortune in experimenting and was ruined.page 6
To Henry and Jas. Bell and J. J. Coleman belong the honour of landing in London in 1880 the first shipment of frozen meat from Australia by means of a refrigerating machine called the '"Bell-Coleman."
We cannot overlook the name of the great French engineer and scientist Charles Tellier, who was instrumental in bringing a shipment of meat from Buenos Aires to Rouen in 1877. This was the first meat cargo carried through the tropics under refrigeration. Tellier invented the ammonia absorption and ammonia compression refrigerating machines. Like many others who were first in the field in this industry, M. Tellier died almost in poverty
In 1880 the "Strathleven" arrived in London with 40 tons of beef and mutton from Sydney and Melbourne, that had been frozen on board. This shipment arrived in excellent condition, costing 1½d to 2d per lb. in Australia and realising 4½d to 5d per lb. for the beef ana 5½d to 6d for the mutton in London and may be looked on as the Pioneer shipment from Australia.
Turning now to New Zealand, we must give the palm for the first shipment to a company of Scotchmen, the New Zealand and Australian Land Co. of Edinburgh. Mr W. S. Davidson was general manager and Mr Thos. Bry-done was the Company's superintendent in New Zealand. Realising the need for providing an outlet for the surplus stock in New Zealand, and the success of the initial shipments from Australia, led this Company to arrange with the Albion Shipping Company to fit up the sailing ship "Dunedin" 1200 tons, Capt. Whitson, for the purpose of carrying a cargo of frozen meat from New Zealand.
As this was the first shipment from this country, I will give a few more interesting details.
There being no freezing works in New Zealand, it was decided to kill the stock on land and then freeze on board, and on the 7th December 1881 at Port Chalmers, Mr Davidson and Mr Brydone personally stowed on the "Dunedin" the first frozen sheep from New Zealand. After several delays caused by break down of machinery, the "Dunedin" sailed on 11th February, 1882, and arrived in London Docks on 24th May, after a passage of 98 days.page 7
The trials and worries for the captain in this experimental voyage must have been severe. It is related that when in the tropics the temperature got so high in the chambers that Capt. Whitson decided as a last resort to endeavour to alter the circulation of the air. To do this he had to crawl down the main trunk and while cutting fresh openings he was overcome by the frost and had to be rescued by the mate crawling in behind him and fastening a rope to his legs by which he was pulled out of the air trunk.
The "Dunedin's" cargo consisted of 4460 sheep and 449 lambs, and it is interesting to compare this with the 130,000 carcases carried by some of the fine insulated steamers that now leave New Zealand almost weekly.
The shipment was sold at the Smithfield market within a fortnight of arrival and was pronounced "as perfect as meal could be." Mention of this shipment was even made in the House of Lords. The mutton and lamb realised about 6½d per lb, and the total charges were a little over 3d per lb., and as the stock was only worth about 11/- per head in the Dunedin market, there was a net return of 2.1/9 per head, which amounted to about 100 per cent. profit on the shipment.
The success of the "Dunedin" led to another Albion fast sailer, the "Marlborough," being fitted out, the former carrying 9000 carcasses and the latter 13,000.
After about six voyages, both vessels left New Zealand within a few weeks of each other and neither was ever heard of again. It is supposed that they struck ice-bergs off Cape Horn.
Mention has been made of Mr Thos. Brydone. A cairn has been erected in the Totara Estate in memorial of the important part he took in the successful pioneer shipment In the 30 years from May 1882 to 1912 78,000,000 carcases have been shipped. In the four years 1913 to 1916 29,538,400 carcasses have been shipped, making a total of 107,538,400 carcasses shipped and also during the last four years over one million quarters of beef have been shipped from New Zealand and have been handled by the retailer in Great Britain.
The first shipment by steamer was 8506 carcasses in the "Marsala" in 1883.page 8
The first freezing works in New Zealand were erected at Burnside near Dunedin in 1881, and other works at Oamaru soon followed, both being built by the New Zealand Refrigerating Company.
This concern, although the pioneer company, never reached large proportions and in 1905 it was absorbed by the Christchurch Meat Co. Mr John Roberts of Dunedin and Mr Brydone were both Directors and always took a leading part in the development of the trade, and among other Directors were W.I.M. Larnach and E. B. Cargill.
It will be noted that although Otago started the frozen meat industry it has now dropped far behind; and is easily outstripped by Canterbury, Wellington, Hawke's Bay, and Auckland.
The Christchurch Meat Co. erected works at Islington, with a killing capacity of 500 sheep per day. These works are now capable of handling 15,000 sheep and 100 cattle per day and are most up to date in every respect. This company was the first to pay particular attention to the by-products of the animal, such as skins, blood, etc., which now are of very great value, everything being worked up into some commercial commodity. In fact, these by-products are utilised to such an extent that the greater proportion of the profits comes from them, and the meat may be considered as a secondary product of the works.
The Christchurch Meat Co. also own works at Smith-field (X.Z.), Picton, Oamaru, Burnside and Wanganui.
In 1891 Mr Gilbert Anderson (now of London) was elected Managing Director and it was due to a great extent to his organisation that the Company was brought to such a high position in the trade.
I may here mention that the Christchurch Meat Company are erecting very large and up to date works at Imlay near Wanganui, and it is interesting to learn that they have lately changed the name of the Company to the N.Z. Refrigerating Co., thus going back to the name of the first Company formed in New Zealand and whose business they absorbed.
The second Company to be formed was the Canterbury Frozen Meat Co. in 1882, with a capital of £20,000, who page 9 erected works at Belfast. At first the daily killing capacity was only about 250 carcasses. This has now increased to 7000 carcasses daily. This Company now also have works at Fairfield and Pareora.
The third frozen meat company in New Zealand was the Gear Meat Preserving Company formed in 1882 who erected works at Petone. At first the slaughtering capacity was 500 sheeP and 40 cattle per day. Now it has in creased to 10,000 sheep and 100 cattle. The first Directors were P. A. Buckley, J. Duthie, R. Greenfield, W. H. Levin, J. R. Lysaght, J. McKelvie, N. Reid, J. Thompson and Jas. Gear. At the present time the Gear Company own one of the most complete Freezing Works in the world. It is stated that an offer has lately been made by one of the largest American Meat Companies to purchase these works, but it is satisfactory to learn that the offer was turned down and these fine works, still remain under the control of a New Zealand Company.
Mention must be made of the name of Mr W. Nelson who was one of the foremost in promoting the freezing industry in this country. Messrs Nelson Bros. have erected Works at Tomoana, Cisborn and at Hornsby.
The Wellington Meat Export Company was formed in 1881; the late Mr William Dilnot Sladdon being the first Manager. The freezing capacity of the Works at Ngahauranga was at first only 300 sheep daily, now it is 8000 sheep and 120 cattle. The first Directors of the Company were W. C. Buchanan, W. Booth, Geo. Beetham, J. T. Dalrymple, H. H. Lang, J. R. Lysaght, J. E. Nathan, C. Pharazyn and D. Peat.
The Longburn Works were built in 1895. The first Directors were C. Bull, J. McLennan, R. S. Abraham, J. O. Batchelor, D. Buick, and H. Howard. In 1896 the Company was taken over by the National Mortgage and Agency Co. The killing capacity is now 1500 sheep and 60 cattle daily.
The Wanganui Works were established in 1891 at Castlecliff. The present killing capacity is 2200 sheep and 100 cattle per day.
Within the last 10 years, in addition to those mentioned, new companies have been formed and freezing works built at Whangarei, Southdown, Westfield (Auckland).page 10
Horotiu (Waikato), Tokomaru Bay, Kaiterataki, Kaiti and Taruheru (Gisborne), Westshore, Paki Paki, Tomoana and Whakatu (Hawke's Bay), Waingrawa (Wairarapa), Waitara, Patea, Taihape and Feilding all in the North Island, and at Picton, Horiisby, Stoke, Balclutha, Ocean Beach, Mataura and Makarea in the South Island.
And new works are in course of construction or are projected at Whakatane, Stratford, Kakariki (Marton) in the North Island.
The total capacity of the works in New Zealand actually erected is a daily killing of 3585 cattle and 122,650 sheep, with storage for 3,898,450—601b. freight carcasses.
During the past 12 months seven new freezing works have been erected with capacity for 800 cattle, 18,200 sheep and 751,000 carcases storage. This is an increase of 28 per cent. in cattle, 4 per cent. in sheep and 20 per cent. in storage over the previous totals.
It is nothing short of marvellous that the whole of this enormous industry should have sprung up and grown during the last 30 years (most of it in the last 5 to 10 years). The cost of the freezing works in New Zealand alone must run into many millions of money, to say nothing of the great fleet of insulated steamers up to 12,000 tons required to carry this food supply to the hungry millions in the United Kingdom. And then we have the magnificent docks and cool stores and markets erected in London and other British ports to handle effectively and distribute this constant stream of food pouring into the country, not only from New Zealand but from Australia, Argentine and other places.
Notwithstanding the heavy export of sheep and lambs from New Zealand, the numbers of sheep have steadily increased until in 1910 we find with a total of 24,269,000 sheep the exports were 5,407,000 or over 20 per cent. The reason is, that owing to the suitability of the land and the mildness of the climate, a very high percentage of lambs are reared, being roughly year after year about 90 per cent.
It may be of some interest briefly to touch on the methods employed in New Zealand Freezing Works.page 11
Under normal conditions the freezing season is from about the middle of November to May or June. The fat stock, i.e., cattle, sheep and lambs, are either bought out-right from the farmer by the Freezing Company or a Meat Exporter at a certain price per head at the farm, or at so much per lb. "on the hooks" at the works; or the farmer has the option of having the stock killed and shipped on his own account
The stock is either driven by road or carried by rail to the Freezing Works which are generally situated near a shipping port, and inter alia I may state for sometime there has been considerable discussion as to whether it is more advisable to rail the live stock to the port and kill there, or to kill the stock at inland works and rail the meat to the port. Arguments can be used in favour of both methods, but the weight of opinion now is in favour of killing as near as possible to where the stock is fattened. On arrival at the works the animal is driven to the highest floor of the building to allow of everything being worked by gravitation, and there slaughtered by humane and expeditious methods. An expert butcher can kill and dress up to 100 sheep or lambs per day, the payment being at the rate of 30/- per hundred, so that good wages are earned. Up to £8 and £9 per week, and even more is earned by cattle butchers.
A Government Veterinarian is always present when stock is killed and a most rigid and careful inspection is made of all animals, and any showing the slightest signs of disease are either wholly or partially condemned.
I may here state that the inspection of stock killed for food in New Zealand is the most thorough in the world.
After being dressed the carcases are graded, weighed and ticketed, then conveyed by overhead rail into the chilling room. In the case of mutton and lamb which are weighed hot, an automatic weighing machine deducts 6 per cent. from the hot weight for shrinkage. Beef is weighed cold, i.e., after it comes out of the chilling room, and 3 per cent. is deducted for loss in freezing, as it is estimated that 3 per cent. of weight is lost in cooling and 3 per cent. in freezing. From the cooling room the meat is run (still by overhead rail) to the freezing chambers where it remains until frozen thoroughly hard, generally a matter of 24 to 48 hours. 15 to 17 degrees F. is consid- page 12 ered to be the best temperature on land or sea for frozen meat. Then the carcases are bagged (the marks etc. on the bags corresponding with the tickets which show the grade, weight and quality and shipper's mark) and stacked in a store room (being sorted out according to marks) to await shipment. When a steamer is available the meat is loaded into insulated railway vans and taken direct to the ship's side and thence into the refrigerating holds of the vessel.
Immediately the animal is killed, the offal is dealt with. All edible portions such as hearts, kidneys, livers, tongues and tails are carefully washed, then frozen and packed in boxes for shipment. Blood, heads, shanks, entrails etc. are all taken away in trucks to another building and there boiled down, the Eat being rendered into tallow and the remainder dried, ground up, and converted into manure. Horns, hoofs, sinews etc. are cleaned and packed ready for export. Other parts of the animal are made into bungs, casings, runners etc, for sausage casings and such like, so that every part of the animal is made use of and no waste allowed.
The skins are taken off carefully, as these are now the most valuable part of the animal. Sheep and lamb skins are conveyed into another building called the fellmongery and after being washed in a dolly, they are painted on the flesh side with a solution of sulphide of sodium and lime and stacked for a period of 12 to 24 hours. The chemical action of this solution loosens the wool from the skin and it is easily plucked off by hand. The wool (called slipe) is then dried and packed in bales for shipment; the skin (now called pelt) is washed, skivered and finally pickled and packed in casks also for shipment.
Before the war the average value of the skin would be from 9d to 1/6 per lb. for the wool, and 1/6 to 3/6 each for the pelt. Now as a result of war conditions, very much higher prices are realised. The cost of working skins may be set down at 1½d per lb. of sliped wool, and the cost of curing pelts at about 3/- per dozen.
The usual grades of meat are:—Prime ox, equal fores and hinds, 160/2201bs., and under and over weights; prime cow and heifer, second quality ox, cow and heifer; boning quality, bull and cow frozen in quarters. Bull and cow boned out. Prime wethers 48/721bs.. Prime page 13 ewes 48/721bs. Prime lambs 28/421bs. Prime tegs i.e. lambs over 421bs., second qualities, and under and over weights in sheep and lambs, and occasionally a third quality lambs.
Under the ordinary circumstances, the voyage to London occupies about 42 to 44 days (or less than half the time taken in the early shipments). The magnificent insulated vessels of the Shaw, Savill and Albion Company, New Zealand Shipping Company, Federal Shire Line, Commonwealth and Dominion Line and Tyser Line, are all engaged in carrying frozen meat (in addition to other cargo) to the United Kingdom. Some of these steamers run up to over 12,000 tons and are fitted with twin screws, wireless telegraphy and all the latest improvements in shipbuilding. The Shaw, Savill and Albion Co. (with which the old Albion Co. has been merged) have 16 steamers totalling 146,762 tons in addition to three new 12,000 ton steamers building. The New Zealand Shipping Co. have 17 steamers of 175,850 tons.
The customary route before the war was via Cape Horn with stops at Monte Video or Rio and Las Palmas. The Federal Shire Line make Avonmouth, Cardiff, Liverpool and Glasgow the ports of discharge, and all the other lines make London. Wellington to Monte Video is 6014 nautical miles. Monte Video to Teneriffe 4258 miles. Teneriffe to London Docks 1730 miles or a total of 12,272 miles. The distance on the outward trip via Capetown is 13,195 miles.
So regular a service, free from accidents, breakdown of machinery, or damaged cargo, has been established that insurance policies covering all risks from the time the stock enters the Freezing Works, during voyage and until 60 days after arrival of vessel at destination, are now issued at a rate of only about £2 per cent. £7 7s per cent. and even more, was paid on some of the early shipments for voyage alone. Almost invariably frozen meat cargoes now arrive in England in prime condition and the percentage of damage is reduced to a minimum.
Any damage to frozen meat may be divided into three classes. Firstly while in the Freezing Works or during transit to ship. Secondly, during the voyage, and Thirdly during discharge and in transit to cool stores or in marketing. Under the first head, losses are practic- page 14 ally unknown. A great deal of the insurance on meat is now done through Lloyds in Britain, but the local New Zealand Companies and well-known British Companies, such as the Thames and Mersey, Commercial Union, Indemnity Marine and others, all handle a large amount of frozen meat insurance. Ninety per cent. of shipments are insured under the "all risks" cover mentioned before, the balance either under an F.P.A. cover at about 25/-per cent. or a cover against total loss of vessel only at 7/6 per cent. Rarely nowadays are claims made on ac count of breakdown of machinery, as all vessels engaged in the trade have their refrigerating machinery in duplicate. The most usual and serious form of damage during voyage is from ordinary sea perils such as stranding, collision, etc., and if sea water gets into the meat holds, very heavy claims arise. Bone taint is confined to beef, but claims from this cause are now very rare.
It must not be thought that New Zealand's Frozen Meat Trade has been one of sure and steady development. Probably no other industry of its size has had more ups and downs.
In 1893 the bottom dropped out of the market for lamb and prices came down to 3d per lb. in London; in the following year mutton had a slum]), 2¼lb. being quoted and in 1897 another serious crisis in the trade occurred. In fact the whole decade 1890-1900 was one of struggle and trial in the frozen meat trade. Problems came up for settlement and damaged cargoes were a most serious question. In 1895, 20 per cent. of the cargoes from New Zealand were in a more or less damaged condition.
As an example of the ignorant prejudice that for some time existed against frozen meat, the Director of Contracts for the War Office in 1893 said "We find the beer suffers from freezing and the soldiers do not care for it." How far this opinion was wide of the mark is exemplified by the fact that the whole of the British and French armies engaged in the Great War are now fed on frozen meat and the men relish it.
Space will not permit me to do more than briefly allude to the Docks, methods of unloading and means of distribution etc. in Great Britain. The magnitude of the undertaking is enormous. In London alone, the cool stores now have a capacity for three million carcases. The first page 15 mention of a public cool store in London was a small building in Charterhouse Street in about 1880; and it is very interesting to learn that considerable opposition was raised to this building on the grounds that "The Court, should therefore be careful not to Start or Encour-Age a new industry Tor preserving that in which decay has taken place." How tittle conception the man who made this speech had of the future! The first Dock cool store was at A. Jetty, Victoria Dock in 1881 with a capacity for 44,000 carcases. Since 1909 all dock stores have been taken over and administered by the Port of London authority.
In 1883 a cold store was established in the vaults under the Poultry Market at Smithfield. but was a failure. Later the Central Markets Cold Storage Co. was formed and stores were built in King Street and Poplar. In 1885 Nelson Bros. built a store in the arches under the Cannon Street Railway Station, and in 1892 a large store in Commercial Road, Lambeth, with a capacity for 250,000 car-cases. Both these stores afterwards passed to the Colonnil Consignment and Distributing Co.
The Union Cold Storage Co. (the largest of any storage company in the World) now have stores in London, Liver-pool, Manchester, Hull and Glasgow, with capacities for millions of carcases and could comfortably hold all a year's shipments from New Zealand. The refrigerating machinery has a total refrigerating power of 3000 per day.
In addition to above, are the cold stores of Borthwicks, Eastmans, Nelson Bros., River Plate Co., Sansinenas and others.
There are over 100 towns in the United Kingdom with public cool storage and the total available storage is over 8,500,000 carcases.
Usually 75 per cent. of frozen meat is marketed within a month of arrival, although at times it is held for six months and even more.
The principal dock stores are at Victoria and Albert Docks and steamers discharge direct into these; the chief railways run alongside, the meat being loaded into railway waggons for distribution in the provinces.page 16
Frozen meat is conveyed from the Docks to the Smithfield and other City stores by insulated vans holding about 120 carcases or river barges holding 1000 to 1200 carcases. Originally cold storage rates were ¾d per lb. per 28 days, but in 1891 the rate was reduced to l-9d per lb or 20/9 ton, with practically little change since.
Mention cannot be omitted of the Great Smithfield Meat Market. It is not a long call from the day in February 1880 when the "Strathleven's" cargo of 40 tons of frozen meat was sold at Smithfield, but compare this small beginning (only 36 years ago) with the 250,000 tons of frozen meat now handled there annually.
The London Central Markets at Smithfield as a whole occupy about ten acres. The main building is 600 feet x 240 feet. The Central Avenue is 27 feet wide and there are six side avenues. Each shop is 36 x 15 feet, and behind is an office. The average daily sales of meat at Smithfield in 1910 were 24,000 carcases of mutton and lamb, 2700 quarters beef and 2500 carcases pork.
As mentioned before, insulated vans bring the meat from the cool stores to Smithfield and they start to load up at 10 p.m. and reach the market at about 3 a.m. The salesmen arrive before 4 a.m. at which time the retailers begin to come along eager to purchase their requirements for their customers. Sample carcases are unclothed and hung up and from these, up to say 200 carcases are sold at a time. The buyers are suburban butchers, representatives of large stores, Government contractors, restaurant keepers, etc. The retail meat trade in England is divided between the butcher who kills his animals at his own slaughterhouse and the man who purchases his requirements in the markets.
When frozen meat was first handled at Smithfield and for many years afterwards, it was sold by agents on commission, but the American firms came on the scene and decided to sell for themselves; so they acquired various stalls in the Grand Avenue, paying heavy sums for good-will.
It is recorded that the Morris Beef Co. paid £16,000 for one of their three shops. The Hammond Beef Co. has two stalls; Armours hold four, Swifts have six. It is known that this latter firm paid £12,000 for one only of these six stalls.page 17
Among the largest British firms are Jas. Nelson and Sons Ltd., who own about 1500 shops in the United Kingdom, Eastman's Ltd., about 1400; the River Plate Fresh Meat Co. and W. R. Fletcher Ltd. over 400 each and the London Central Meat Co. over 500. It is calculated that there are over 100,000 butchers shops in the United Kingdom, and that 80 per cent. of Imported meat is sold by firms who sell no other kind of meat.
It must not be lost sight of that New Zealand's shipments of frozen meat (large as they are) are only 22 per cent. of the total imports of meat in the United Kingdom.
Smithfield has participated in all the ups and downs of the trade, and all the problems of the industry virtually take there rise there. The New Zealand farmer who ships frozen meat looks upon Smithfield as his Mecca and visitors from all parts of the world are constantly seen there. Smithield or "Smoothfield" as it was termed in mediaeval days, is rich in historical romance. In the days of the tournaments, St. Bartholmews Fair was held there. In the days of Mary and Elizabeth, Catholics and Protest-ants burnt each other there by turn, and it was the fashionable place for public executions before Tyburn became the mode. As a market for live stock we hear of Smith-field in 1150.
In 1253 the market was the property of the Corporation and Edward III. gave a Charter to the City of London not to allow other parties to set up a market. In those days the market price of food was regulated by the authorities, and yet in this year of our Lord 1916 we pride ourselves on our advanced legislation. Why the Chaldeans, Egyptians, Greeks and Romans all in turn tried this interference with natural law and always with the same result.
In 1533 it was enacted that butchers should sell their beef at not above ½d per lb. and mutton 2/4d. Before that time prices of beef weighing 31bs. and over could be bought for 1d Per Piece. Compare these prices with those paid at the present day. One of the features of St. Bartholomew's Fair was the enormous sale of roast pork; beef sausages came into use in 1750 and have been more or less fashionable ever since.page 18
It is interesting to learn that in 1750 the average weight of oxen was 3701bs. and of sheep 281bs. or only about half the average weight at the present day.
In 1853 the live stock market at Smithfield was stopped. Before then it must have been an extraordinary sight to witness the whole of the six acres and approaching streets (even blocking up the passages as far as St. Sepulchre's Church) crammed on the last market day before Christmas with over 4000 oxen and 30,000 sheep, and yet Smith-field is only a few minutes walk from St. Paul's and the heart of London. There was tremendous congestion and the surroundings were filthy and criminal beyond description.
How little those old knights in armour who charged across Smithfield in the tournaments, or the martyrs waiting to be burnt at the stake, or the highwaymen led UP for public execution, thought that one clay, hundreds of thousands of carcases of sheep and lambs and quarters of beef from over 12,000 miles away at the other side of the world (not even then heard of) would occupy the place they lived and fought and died in. The Smithfield of old was the popular and fashionable place of resort for jousts, tournaments, executions and burnings. Now it is synonymous with the material, industrial progress, trade and expansion of the British Empire. "Verily this is a strange world, my masters" and who can say that the next 200 or 300 years will not bring about even more extraordinary changes.
Interesting pages could be written about the distribution of meat in the Provinces and at the large ports such as Liverpool, Glasgow, Hull, etc., also regarding the attempts to introduce frozen meat into France, Germany, Belgium, Italy and other continental countries, but space will not permit. There is no doubt however, that as a result of the present war, the flocks and herds of Europe will be greatly reduced and when trade settles down again fresh outlets for unlimited quantities of our frozen meat will be opened up in almost virgin soil; not only in Europe but in China, Japan and India. The position regarding the shortage of meat in the European countries was acute before the was began, and communities rebelled against the enormously high prices of butcher's meat. Serious disturbances took place in Austria, France and page 19 other countries; the mob in Vienna shouted "Give us frozen meat." It is interesting; to note that in the United Kingdom the number or sheep has actually increased since the war began. In England and Wales alone there was an increase of nearly half a million.
Another fact not generally known is, that there are more sheep in the United Kingdom than there are in New Zealand.
The enormous gain to the Argentine and Australasia when the new custom from the above countries is won, and how great the need for the diversion of heavy supplies from existing markets is clear to those connected with the frozen meat market.
The total number of insulated steamers engaged in carrying meat irom New Zealand in 1914 was 54 regular boats and 17 occasional ones. The 54 boats traded between New Zealand and United Kingdom and nowhere else; averaging about 2½ trips per annum, while the 17 steamers sometimes loaded in South American and Australian ports instead of New Zealand, so that these could be averaged at about one trip per annum. The total carrying capacity of the 54 regular traders was 5,361,300 carcases of 561bs. and the 17 boats 1.545,700 carcases. The average carrying space of the 54 vessels was almost 100, 000 carcases per trip; the highest being 138,000 and the lowest 75,000. So presuming that these steamers were loaded to their full capacity all the year round (which of course they were not) they would be able to lift nearly 15 million 5611). carcases (or say 14 million 601b. carcases) from New Zealand per annum. But, as the total shipments from New Zealand in 1914 were about six million carcases, it is evident that there was ample shipping space then for all the meat available.
But the war has greatly changed the position.
The British Admiralty has commandeered about 45 per cent of the mercantile marine and then the Kaipara and Tokomaru have been sunk by the enemy; the Rangatira, page 20 Matatua and Tongariro have been wrecked. These five steamers alone had a carrying capacity of 475,000 carcases per trip, or a total of nearly 1,200,000 carcases per annum. On the other hand new steamers are in course of construction, and if these can be completed within a reasonable time they will more than compensate for those lost.
The number of insulated steamers carrying meat from Australia was 71 with carrying capacity of 3,643,000 carcases and from South America 69 with carrying capacity of 5,672,800 carcases.
The average carrying capacity of Australian meat steamers was only 51,000 carcases as compared with 82,000 on boats from South America and nearly 100,000 from New Zealand.
In addition to the vessels regularly engaged in the New Zealand, Australian and South American trade there were in 1914 some 27 steamers fitted with refrigerating machinery but not then engaged in carrying frozen meat to the United Kingdom. These 27 boats had a capacity for 3,191,900 carcases, so that we had a total of 238 insulated steamers engaged in the frozen meat trade of the world, capable of carrying 19,415,100 carcases per trip, the average being 82,000 carcases.
The quantity of stock slaughtered in New Zealand shows a very large increase for the years ending 30th June 1914 i.e. before the war, compared with 1916.
|Ox and heifers||132,307||181,995||49,688|
The increase in the number of cows slaughtered is remarkable, being over 100 per cent more.
Notwithstanding this enormous increase in stock killed, the latest returns of live stock in New Zealand show considerable growth.page 21
|Cattle||2,020,171||2,329,292 (31st. Jan.)||309,121|
|Sheep||23,996,126||24,788,150 (30th Apl)||792,024|
Referring to the increase in quantity of stock in England, the latest returns collected in June 1916 show a very satisfactory state of affairs. The schedule attached shows that cattle in England and Wales in 1916 were over 151, 000 more than in 1915.
This increase in cattle is the largest ever recorded. Pigs on the other hand decreased by 252,090—10.4 p.c.
So that the increase in cattle is just over 2 per cent. while in sheep and pigs there are slight decreases. This increase is probably due to the Maintenance of Live Stock order and it may even show a better result next year. But the main point is there is no prospect of increased supplies for killing purposes.
I cannot conclude without making some reference to what is generally known as the "Meat Trust Menace."
The American firms who comprise the "Meat Trust" are foreign concerns and outside the control of the Imperial Government, neither are they members of the Incorporated Society of Meat Traders.
I would earnestly commend to the attention of the New Zealand Freezing Companies and also to the sheep farmers the position of the meat trade in the Argentine and in the United. States. In spite of what the Americans say, the fact and statistics of the United States prove conclusively that the American farmer does not flourish under the present system of Meat Trusts and Controls, as is page 22 shown clearly from the fact that large tracts of country are continually going out of cultivation. This is solely attributed to the low initial price which the American farmer receives for his stock from the Meat Trust.
The paid-up capital of one only of the six firms who comprise the Meat Trust in the U.S.A. is £15,000,000 with an annual turnover of £80,000,000.
This will show what enormous influences politically financially, industrially and in other directions can be brought to bear by a combine of firms with practically unlimited capital at their command as is the case with the Meat Trust of U.S.A.
The capture of the Argentine was effected by the usual Beef Trust methods, i.e., a steady forcing up of prices until all competitors are eliminated, and then when the market is cornered, prices dropped and the producer is forced to take whatever the Trust will give him, or have his stock remain on his hands without a market. An interesting example of this was given in an article that appeared in a Wellington paper recently. A farmer from New Zealand bought land in the State of Connecticut, U.S.A., at what appeared to be a cheap price according to New Zealand standards, with the intention of raising cattle. He said "I found it was impossible for me to raise cattle for profit because the local markets were closed against me; the meat trusts had full control, and they would only buy stock at their own price. No butcher could buy direct from us, for if he did he found he would be denied supplies by the Trust. A neighbour wanted to sell two bullocks to a local butcher but this butcher replied that he could not buy without permission of the representative of the packers. The community was completely under the thumb of the Meat Trust. The price paid by the consumers was high while the price paid to the producers was low. The farmer had to sell to the Trust if he sold at all and accept the price paid to him, the retailer had to get his supplies from the Trust, at their price and under their conditions regarding the conduct of his business.
How the producers in the Argentine are exploited is shown by the profits made by the various companies who combined in the Meat Trust there.page 23
Profits for 1915, dollars.—British and Argentine:—3,288,539; Smithfield and Argentine:—715,957; La Blanca (Morris-Amour):—1,438,241; Sansinena (Argentine) : — 1,151,910; Argentino Central (Sulzberger) :—770,776; La Plata Cold Storage (Swift):—2,124,497; total, 9,489,920.
Paid-up Capital 1915, dollars.—British and Argentine Meat:—7,321,759; Smithfield and Argentine:—1,638,000; La Blanca (Morris-Armour):—1,500,000; Sansinena (Argentine):—4,500,000; Argentino Central (Sulzberger):—300,000; La Plata Cold Storage (Swift): 7,500,000; total 32,759,739.
For much of the information regarding the early history and development of the frozen meat trade, 1 am indebted to Messrs Critchell and Raymond's admirable work entitled "A History of the Krozen Meat Trade"
In the foregoing pages 1 have endeavoured to trace the birth and growth of the great Frozen Meat industry of New Zealand. Some writers have stated that we have reached the maximum export of meat from this country, but I cannot believe that this is correct. While no doubt dairying has now taken up a very large area of land formerly used for breeding and fattening stock, still the millions of acres awaiting settlement and closer farming and the greatly enhanced prices of meat (with the probability of it continuing) will result in much greater production. Every year will see an expanding demand for meat-food among the nations of the Old World.
North America is hardly producing sufficient for her own wants, so that the World's supply must be looked for in the Southern Hemisphere.
And with the demand the supply will be forthcoming and this brings me back to my opening remarks:—The Natural Law of Supply and Demand. You may have a supply without a demand, but establish a demand and sooner or later you will have the supply.
M. A. EliottPalmerston North.
November 7th, 1916.