On this day … 21 February 1877

The Preston Guardian reported great demand for the supply of American beef in the town. The American Fresh Meat Company had opened a shop on Friargate near Walker Street at the beginning of the month and a few days later opened another also on Friargate opposite Orchard Street, and was undercutting local farmers on price and, it boasted, beating them for quality.

Preston shop advert for American meat

The new source, available thanks to refrigeration, was not universally welcomed. At a meeting of the Board of Guardians at the workhouse on Watling Street Road:

The Clerk inquired if American beef would be accepted in the tenders for meat? Upon which Mr. Kay (who represents one of the rural districts) rose, and in an excited manner said: What’s that; American beef! I would not give it to my dog to eat; nasty soft stuff. Mr. Robinson said his experience was that American beef was quite equal to the best English meat. Nothing further was said on the subject.

Mr Kay’s disparagement of the imported meat provoked a prompt response from a correspondent to the Preston Chronicle:

If the food be not fit for dogs it is quite just that it should not be offered to paupers. I should, however, be glad to know upon what grounds he condemns it so utterly. Personally, I am a fastidious feeder, that is, I require my food to be sound, fresh, and of good quality; but after two trials of American I am convinced that it is superior to English over-fed beef, that costs threepence per pound more, as a dish for the working-man.

Now if the ratepayers find American beef suitable for them, surely rate-eaters could not grumble at its being offered to them. In this case, however, it is one of the Guardians who condemns the food without giving the paupers the opportunity of judging on the subject, besides which he describes it as unfit for dogs, that is, it is worse than carrion.

Now as Mr. Kay happens to be the only man who seems aware of its bad quality, he is either more shrewd than his compeers or more biased. The fact that several ship loads come into Liverpool weekly is ample proof that its quality is appreciated by numbers of people, and the still more important fact that no one who has given it a fair trial condemns it, is a convincing proof that Mr. Kay is unjust in his judgment. I should say that he has not tried it …

… Mr. Kay, I believe, is “a country Guardian” and probably is a producer of beef, hence the reason of his jealousy of foreign competition is apparent. Could you, sir, tell me whom the Guardians are supposed to serve, and whose interests should be the first looked after? In my opinion if farmer Guardians would not buy for the union in the cheapest market, they are neither looking after the interests of the ratepayers nor the good of the poor.

In defence of Mr Kay, it should be pointed out that there were several reports in the local papers at that time of butchers being prosecuted for selling American beef unfit for human consumption.

2 thoughts on “On this day … 21 February 1877

  1. Assuming that horse and cart would have been all that was available in the 1870’s to transport this beef from Liverpool, how many hours would that have taken? It might well have been a bit soggy by time of arrival in Preston. I’m assuming, again, that this was before the invention of electric mobile freezers and that road transport of meat therefore, was Ice dependent.


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