1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Agriculture/British Imports of Live Animals and Meat

British Imports of Live Animals and Meat.

The stock-breeders and graziers of the United Kingdom have, equally with the corn-growers, to face the brunt of foreign competition.

Up to 1896 store cattle were admitted into the United Kingdom for the purpose of being fattened, but under the Diseases of Animals Act of that year animals imported since then have to be slaughtered at the place of landing. The dimensions of this trade are shown in Table XIV.

Table XIV.—Numbers of Cattle, Sheep and Pigs imported into the
United Kingdom
, 1891–1905.

 Year.   Cattle.   Sheep.   Pigs. 
1891 507,407 344,504  542
1892 502,237  79,048 3826
1893 340,045  62,682  138
1894 475,440 484,597 8
1895 415,565 1,065,470  321
1896 562,553 769,592 4
1897 618,321 611,504  . .
1898 569,066 663,747  450
1899 503,504 607,755  . .
1900 495,645 382,833  . .
1901 495,635 383,594  . .
1902 419,488 293,203  . .
1903 522,546 354,241  . .
1904 549,532 382,240  . .
1905 565,139 183,084  150

The animals come mainly from the United States of America, Canada and Argentina, and the traffic in cattle is more uniform than that in sheep, whilst that in pigs seems practically to have reached extinction. The quantities of dead meat imported increased with great rapidity from 1891 to 1905, a circumstance largely due to the rise of the trade in chilled and frozen meat. Fresh beef in this form is imported chiefly from the United States and Australasia, fresh mutton from Australasia and Argentina.

Table XV. shows how rapidly this trade expanded during the decade of the ’nineties. The column headed bacon and hams indicates clearly enough that the imports of fresh meat did not displace those of preserved pig meat, for the latter expanded from 4,715,000 cwt. to 7,784,000 cwt. during the decade. The column for all dead meat includes not only the items tabulated, but also

Table XV.—Quantities of Dead Meat imported into the United Kingdom, 1891–1905—Thousands of Cwt.
 Year.   Fresh 
Beef.
 Fresh 
Mutton.
 Fresh 
Pork.
Bacon
and Hams.
All
 Dead Meat. 
1891 1921 1663 128 4715  9,790
1892 2080 1700 132 5135 10,500
1893 1808 1971 182 4187  9,305
1894 2104 2295 180 4819 10,610
1895 2191 2611 288 5353 11,977
1896 2660 2895 299 6009 13,347
1897 3010 3193 348 6731 14,729
1898 3101 3314 558 7684 16,445
1899 3803 3446 669 7784 17,658
1900 4128 3393 695 7444 17,912
1901 4509 3608 792 7633 18,764
1902 3707 3660 655 6572 16,971
1903 4160 4017 706 6298 17,498
1904 4350 3495 610 6696 17,517
1905 5038 3811 506 6817 18,680

the following, the quantities stated being those for 1905:—Beef, salted, 142,806 cwt.; beef, otherwise preserved, 598,030 cwt.; preserved mutton, 30,111 cwt.; salted pork, 205,965 cwt.; dead rabbits, 656,078 cwt.; meat, unenumerated, 875,032 cwt. The quantities of these are relatively small, and, excepting rabbits from Australia, they show no general tendency to increase. The extent to which these growing imports were associated with a decline in value is shown in Table XVI.

The trend of the import trade in meat, live and dead (exclusive of rabbits), may be gathered from Table XVII., in which are given the annual average imports from the eight quinquennial periods embraced between 1866 and 1905. An increase in live cattle accompanied a decrease in live sheep and pigs, but the imports of dead meat expanded fifteen-fold over the period.

The rate at which the trade in imported frozen mutton increased as compared with the industry in home-grown mutton is illustrated in the figures published annually by Messrs W. Weddel and Company, from which those for 1885 and 1890 and for each year from 1895 to 1906 are given in Table XVIII. The home-grown is the estimated dead weight of sheep and lambs slaughtered, which is taken at 40% of the total number of sheep and lambs returned each year in the United Kingdom.

Table XVI.—Average Values of Fresh Meat, Bacon and Hams
imported into the United Kingdom
, 1891–1905—per Cwt.

 Year.   Fresh 
Beef.
Fresh
 Mutton. 
 Fresh 
Pork.
 Bacon.   Hams. 
 s. d.  s. d.  s. d.  s. d.  s. d.
1891 42  1 39  6 47  6 37 11 46  4
1892 42  5 40  6 46 11 40 10 47  4
1893 42  4 39  3 50  0 53  0 58  5
1894 40  0 37 10 48  5 43 10 49  1
1895 39  0 35  2 46  1 39  0 44 11
1896 37 10 32  7 45 11 34  6 43  0
1897 38  5 30  3 44  0 35  5 42  8
1898 38  2 29  7 41 10 36  2 39  6
1899 38  8 31  7 41 11 35 10 41  5
1900 39  7 34  5 43  0 41  9 46 10
1901 39  6 36  7 43  4 47  1 48  8
1902 42  8 37  9 44  2 52  9 52  1
1903 40  3 39  0 44  1 52 10 55  1
1904 37  1 39  3 45  2 47  1 49 11
1905 35  6 38  6 46  0 46  6 47  4

In the imported column is given the weight of fresh (frozen) mutton and lamb imported, plus the estimated dead weight of the sheep imported on the hoof for slaughter. The quantity imported in 1899 was double that in 1890, and quadruple that in 1885. Moreover, in 1885 the imported product was only about one-seventh as much as the home-grown, whereas in 1890 it was more than one-fourth, and in 1906 close on two-thirds.

Table XVII.—Average Annual Imports of Cattle, Sheep and
Pigs
, and of Dead Meat, into the United Kingdom over
eight 5-yearly Periods.
 Period.   Cattle.   Sheep.   Pigs.   Dead Meat. 
No. No. No. Cwt.
1866–1870 194,947 610,300 64,827  1,155,867
1871–1875 215,990 864,516 74,040  3,134,175
1876–1880 272,745 938,704 44,613  5,841,913
1881–1885 387,282 974,316 24,355  6,012,495
1886–1890 438,098 800,599 19,437  7,681,729
1891–1895 448,139 407,260 967 10,436,549
1896–1900 549,818 607,086 91 15,785,354
1901–1905 510,468 319,272 30 17,384,366

This large import trade in fresh meat, which sprang up entirely within the last quarter of the 19th century, has placed an abundance of cheap and wholesome food well within the reach of the great industrial populations of the United Kingdom.

Table XVIII.—Home Product and Imports of Sheep and Mutton
into the United Kingdom—Thousands of Tons.

 Year.  Home-
 grown. 
 Imported.   Year.  Home-
 grown. 
 Imported. 
1885 322  47 1900 332 179
1890 339  92 1901 330 191
1895 319 157 1902 322 191
1896 329 164 1903 318 210[1]
1897 327 175 1904 311 185
1898 333 182 1905 312 195
1899 339 187 1906 313 207

At the same time it cannot be gainsaid that it has opened the way to fraud. Butchers have palmed off upon their customers imported fresh meat as homegrown, and secured a dishonest profit by charging for it the prices of the latter, which are considerably in excess of those of the imported product.

  1. In 1903 two of the principal sources of supply of mutton shipped in excess of their exportable surplus, for which they suffered severely in 1904—hence the somewhat irregular movements after 1903.