Papers Relating to the Foreign Relations of the United States, Transmitted to Congress, With the Annual Message of the President, December 4, 1883
Mr. Sargent to Mr. Frelinghuysen
Berlin, November 13, 1882. (Received December 4.)
Sir: I have the honor, referring to my dispatch of November 6, being No. 74, referring to the exclusion of American hogs, pork, and lard from Germany, to now inclose two very exhaustive articles from the Berlin Tribune of the 10th and 11th instant, with careful translations. The articles present very fairly the effects which the proposed exclusion would have upon the trade of Germany, and upon the subsistence of the poorer classes, and prove by irrefutable facts that the clamor against these productions is born of prejudice. * * * The articles are written in admirable temper, and it is to be hoped will have weight in showing to the German statesmen and public the truth in a matter so important to the interests of both countries.
I have, &c.,
the prohibition act.
An imperial decree was lately laid before the imperial Diet (Bundesrath) regarding the prohibition of the importation of pigs, pork, and sausages from the United States. As regards American sausages, they were excluded from importation some time ago. This prohibition seems justifiable on the ground that the nature of this article of food renders an inspection difficult, whereas it is very easy in the case of pigs and pork. It would be hard to conceive why our meat supply from this quarter should encounter such opposition, if we ignored the fact that a more or less artificial agitation against the importation of American meat had been set on foot long ago. It is only too apparent that this agitation is more in the interest of our cattle breeders than of our poorer classes. Our farmers fail to understand that the development of our industries entails a constantly increasing demand for food from foreign sources to supply the people engaged in them. From a grain-exporting country we have finally become a grain-importing country, and we are likewise obliged to import a constantly increasing quantity of meat, the home supply having become inadequate to meet the demands of our growing population. This applies to all Europe, but more especially to Germany. Although the actual number of live stock has greatly increased in the last fifty years, the relative number has materially diminished. In 1830 there were in Europe 70½ million beeves, 164 million sheep, and 42½ million swine; in 1875 there were 88⅓ million beeves, 191 million sheep, and 43½ million swine, the latter number, as will be seen, having remained almost unchanged. The relative number of live stock, on the other hand, gave to every 1,000 inhabitants in Europe—
Still more remarkable is the disparity between the increase of the population and the increase of live stock in Germany. Whereas the population in the German [Page 308] Empire in 1860 was 37.7 millions, and in 1870, 40.8 millions (about 10 per cent, increase), the number of live stock has increased only as follows:
According to these statistical results our importation of cattle and animal products will have to be increased year after year. The annual statistics for the German Empire show that there were, for instance, in the year 1861, 548,737 pigs imported; in 1880, almost twice that number, i. e., 1,104,321. The past year this number was still further increased by the importation of sucking pigs to 1,272,816, whereas the exportation amounted to 804,867 head.
It can, therefore, no more be a question whether or not we are to import meat products, but from which source Ave can draw the best and cheapest article. Whereas formerly Russia and Austria-Hungary supplied the German markets with cattle, America, which, is sending its enormous meat products to all Europe, has now also entered the lists with these States in Germany. For several years already a regular line of ships has been organized for the transportation of live stock to England. As yet Germany is supplied principally with salted and corned beef, lard, and pork only. The United States are, by reason of their enormous wealth in cattle, peculiarly adapted to supply Europe with meat, to give us from their superabundance what we lack. In a comparatively short time the exportation of fresh meat in ships supplied with refrigerators has assumed astounding proportions. In 1875–’76 the export of fresh and salted meats amounted to 36½ million pounds, valued at $3,000,000; from 1878–’79, 54,000,000 pounds of fresh meat, valued at $4,800,000; and of salted meat 37,000,000 pounds, valued at $2,300,000. According to official statistics there were in 1878 in the United States:
|Total for every 1,000 inhabitants:|
With this natural wealth is combined the advantage of a very good quality. The manner of fattening cattle in the extensive fields of ripening corn on which the cattle are driven, makes it possible for the Western farmer to raise cattle and render the meat of a quality which cannot be attained in any other manner. In this manner the cheapness of the meat is explained. According to Neumann and Spallart, the best quality of beef brought 11 to 12 cents per pound in New York. The exportation of pork products (meat, hams, pork, and lard) has been the most extensive. In 1879 it readied the following enormous figures: 1,081,892,318 pounds, estimated at $77,356,947, but in 1880 these figures were exceeded by 1,326,157,330 pounds, valued at $100,799,414.
It is only too apparent that the importations of such quantities of meat for the European markets will tend to lower the price and bring it within the reach of the poor classes. Under all circumstances the supply of the European markets with American meat has become a real blessing to our poor people, whose standard of life has been materially improved. When in February of last year the French Government prohibited the importation of American salted pork the price of meat rose in the following month in the seaports 25 per cent.; so also poultry and other animal food (see official report of Consul Bridgeland in Havre, July, 1881). It is now proposed to decree a similar prohibition in the German Empire.
If, therefore, we oppose this measure we do so solely because the prohibition of the kind proposed will rob the poorer classes of the means of procuring cheap and wholesome nourishment, and sink them to a lower grade of subsistence. Lard, for instance, has become an important and extensively used article of food only through the American import; whereas German lard was formerly and is still a luxury. In 1870 American lard cost 70 marks per 100 kilograms (200 pounds); German lard 160 marks. At present the comparative prices of lard are 125 marks and 145 marks per 100 kilograms. In 1881 and the first half of 1882 Westphalian and Oldenburg hams cost 1.05 to 1.10 pfennige per pound; American hams 60 to 64 pfennige. At present German hams cost 1.05 to 1.10 pfennige; American 63 to 63½ pfennige per pound.
None the less these advantages would not weigh with us if it could be proven that the imported American meats, as far as the pork production is concerned, are injurious to health. In that case we would urge the exclusion of American meats as [Page 309] strenuously as we would in the case of Russian and Austro-Hungarian produce. But we could not, after a careful inquiry into the matter, discover that it was based on anything more than an unfounded prejudice and a superficial knowledge in the premises, premising, however, that-the agrarian interests formed no part of the question. In a second article we shall enter more into the details of this question.
At the time the abolition of the duty on lard was discussed in the Reichstag the director of the ministry,, the present secretary of state, Burchard, declared that “trichinӕ cannot be detected in lard, but lard can be made from pigs infected with diseases, and any one who has given the subject any attention knows that a disease prevails or prevailed to a large extent among the pigs in America, which was called the hog-cholera. Fears were openly expressed, and evidence has been obtained to show that these fears were well grounded, that a large number of these pigs were killed and used in the manufacture of lard.” We do not know whether the Government has since obtained more plausible reasons to justify the proposed prohibition, but the reasons as given in the above explanation are altogether inadequate. As far as the report of the employment of infected and dead pigs in the preparation of lard is concerned, it may be well to state that at the first appearance of the report, in February of last year, the New York Produce Exchange, foreseeing the danger which threatened the export trade, made representations to the United States Government, which immediately ordered an investigation in the premises. At the instance of the then Secretary of State, Mr. Blaine, Mr. Michael Scanlan, chief of the statistical bureau, made a most searching investigation Into the matter at Chicago and Cincinnati, the centers of these industries, the result of which was published in the spring of that year in a pamphlet entitled “American pork; Result of an investigation made under authority of the Department of State of the United States.” Mr. Scanlan had received strict injunctions to subject every phase of the pork industry, from the rearing of pigs to the manufacture of the pork products for consumption, to a most minute investigation. Accompanied by a stenographer and experts, he visited the principal breeders of pigs, traders, and exporters, packing-houses, cattle-yards, abattoirs, shippers, instituted meetings of those engaged in the trade, subjected them to cross-examination; in short, he fulfilled his mission so thoroughly that we lay down his report to Mr. Blaine (in which all the material was inclosed for his consideration) with the fullest conviction that here a thoroughly competent man has done all that could be done in the matter.
Mr. Scanlan first went to Illinois to investigate the extent of the “hog-cholera.” Nobody made a secret of the fact that this disease infected the hogs for several years and caused sad havoc. The department of agriculture of that State published the following exhibit of the losses. (The first figures show the percentage of the hogs that died of the disease; the second proportional weight:)
According to official statistics there were in the State of Illinois for several years past 3,133,557 swine, of which 227,259 died. Whilst on the one hand the percentage of loss during the last five years decreased from 17 to 7 per cent., it was ascertained that, on the other hand, all cases of death were attributed to hog-cholera, even if death had ensued from other causes. A classification of the causes of death was not made, not even in the case of death by accident. It was further ascertained that in the above statistics no difference was made between pigs and hogs. The name “pig” is applied to the sucking pig until it is six months old; it is only after this age that it becomes marketable, and is then called “hog.” In Europe this distinction, as made repeatedly by Mr. Scanlan, is unknown, hence the groundless and exaggerated fears. The living weight of hogs marketed is between 250 and 260 pounds, whereas the average weight of the pigs that have died is 103 pounds, which is conclusive evidence that the hog-cholera carries off the sucking pigs. “But the presence or absence of this disease exercises, as has been proven, no influence whatever upon the quality of the hogs sent to market, or upon the quality of the meat obtained from them, because it is utterly impossible to dispose of a hog that died by disease or accident for purposes of consumption.”
We have no time to enter into the details of the minute description of the breeding, fattening (in the open air, in corn-fields, and a continual supply of pure water), of the [Page 310] transportations. Anybody at all acquainted with the subject knows that it is impossible to conduct the whole business in a more rational manner. On the arrival of a shipment of pigs at the cattle-yards “the dead hogs (for in spite of all precautionary measures deaths in the cars through suffocation, exhaustion, and want of water will occur) are taken fn charge by the officials of a company, which, by a concession, has the sole right to confiscate all dead animals within the cattle-yards. This company fixes such price as it deems proper to be paid to the owner of such pigs, a price so advantageous to the company that that alone would be a guarantee for the watchfulness of its employés. It is not probable that a dead pig would escape the vigilance of these interested parties.” In Chicago the Union Rendering Company is established, having its establishment at Globe Station, near Chicago, where the confiscated dead hogs are boiled down into tallow and grease (white and brown grease); the offal is used for manuring purposes. The grease is sold to soap factories.
There are houses in Chicago which, owing to excellent machinery and other technical arrangements, can kill and prepare 4,000 swine daily. The Anglo-American Packing and Provision Company has packed in the two seasons from March 1, 1880, to March 1, 1881, 1,166,377 hogs; Armour & Co., in Chicago, 1,210,092 head. In all there were packed in that city 5,693,569 head.* This is an exceptionally extensive industry. To assume that an industry which is carried on with such painstaking cleanliness and such order and regularity would expose its interest to the danger of ruining the entire product, by introducing diseased swine, would indicate a total ignorance of the principles underlying its prosperity. The American speculates, but he does not adulterate, for he well knows that he would ruin his trade forever. “To mix and to fix” is better understood in Europe than in America.
Regarding the trichinæ, the report affirms that the inhabitants of America are the greatest pork-consuming people in the world, and that the people in the rural districts eat it two or three times a day, without the slightest fear of trichinae. Of course, only the most thoroughly boiled meat is eaten. In fact, our habit of eating meat in a raw state is looked upon in France, England, and America as barbarous. Of 40,000 deaths in Chicago only two were traced to trichinae, and in Cincinnati none have died through this cause for a number of years. The report assumes the percentage of American swine infected with trichinae, owing to the superiority in breeding and fattening, to be much smaller than the swine in any other part of the world. An obligatory inspection of swine cannot be introduced in a city where daily sixteen to eighteen thousand hogs are slaughtered. An inspector of meat can inspect at the highest only thirty pigs per day, nor so many thoroughly. There is no reason to doubt the thoroughness of this official investigation’ unless we would doubt the integrity of Mr. Scanlan and the honesty of purpose of the United States Government. This our Government certainly will not do. We may, therefore, inquire, are they cognizant of this investigation? Have they, nevertheless, other reasons for decreeing this prohibition? On reading the remarks made by Mr. Burchard, we are almost compelled to assume that he was specially ignorant of the true state of affairs, and that his assertions were based solely on hearsay. Of course, since the retirement of Mr. Delbrück we are accustomed to see every new economic measure proposed by the Government end in a miserable failure; and on the whole it is not worth the while to devote any serious consideration to such general and superficial remarks as were made in the debate in the Reichstag on the 7th June by the opponents to Mr. Booth’s bill.
While on the one hand a prohibition of the importation of American pork would deprive the population of a cheap and nutritious article of food, and destroy the pork and beef trade in the German seaports, the question arises on the other whether it is wise from a commercial point of view to introduce a prohibitive policy towards a country which is purchasing a constantly increasing portion of our manufactured wares. The United States have paid for 257,000,000 marks’ worth of German wares between the months of October 1, 1881, to September 30, 1882; that is to say, for about 56,000,000 marks more than in 1880–’81. Will we then insist in forcing them to adopt measures of reprisal, in which we would certainly be the losers, because our exporting interests in America are greater? We fail to see in any quarter any cogent reason for the introduction of a prohibitory measure, for we can scarcely believe that the agrarian interests should alone be the motive for such a measure, for there are too many weighty and general interests involved in the question.
- We have in Germany a large packing-house of this kind—J. D. Koopmann, Hamburg—which packs 130,000–140,000 German pigs yearly, exclusively for London.↩