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Low Meat Prices Versus High Cattle Prices

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

Historical reproductions by Dick Perue

An advertisement in the Dec. 12, 1918 issue of the Guernsey Gazette proclaims:

If the farmer cannot get enough for his livestock, he raises less, and the packer gets less raw material.

If the consumer has to pay too much for his meat, he eats less of it, and the packer finds his market decreased.

The packer wants the producer to get enough to make raising livestock profitable, and he wants the price of meat so low to ensure everyone will eat it.

But, all he can do, and what he would have to do in any case to stay in business, is to keep down the cost of processing the farmer’s stock into meat so the consumer pays for the meat and byproducts only a little more than the farmer gets for his animals.

For example, last year Swift and Company paid for its cattle about 90 percent of what it got for meat and byproducts such as hides, tallow, oils, etc.

If cattle from the farm were turned miraculously into meat in the hands of retailers, without going through the expense of dressing, shipping and marketing, the farmer would get only about one and one-half cents per pound more for his cattle or consumers would pay only about two and one-quarter cents per pound less for their beef.

Out of this cent or two per pound, Swift and Company pays for the operation of extensive plants, pays freight on meats, operates refrigerator cars, maintains branch houses, and in most cases, delivers to retailers all over the United States. The profit amounts to only a fraction of a cent, and a part of this profit goes to build more plants, to give better service and to increase the company’s usefulness to the country.

After viewing several of the Swift and Company. advertisements in early Wyoming newspapers, I was curious about the meatpacking industry, especially Swift, so I looked it up on the internet and will pass my findings along in future “Postcards.”

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