Abundant Meat in North America

Appears in
On Food and Cooking

By Harold McGee

Published 2004

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From the beginning, Americans have enjoyed an abundance of meat made possible by the size and richness of the continent. In the 19th century, as the country became urbanized and more people lived away from the farm, meats were barreled in salt to preserve them in transit and in the shops; salt pork was as much a staple food as bread (hence such phrases as “scraping the bottom of the barrel” and “pork-barrel politics”). In the 1870s a wider distribution of fresh meat, especially beef, was made possible by several advances, including the growth of the cattle industry in the West, the introduction of cattle cars on the railroads, and the development of the refrigerated railroad car by Gustavus Swift and Philip Armour.