History of Artificial Cold, Scientific, Technological and Cultural Issues

Volume 299 of the series Boston Studies in the Philosophy and History of Science pp 251-265


The Invention of Refrigerated Transport and the Development of the International Dressed Meat Trade

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In 1898, a terrible scandal occurred involving the beef fed to U.S. soldiers during the Spanish American War. The commander of the Army, General Nelson A. Miles charged that the military had provided condemned meat to its fighting men. Some of the beef that Miles described in testimony before Congress came from cans. Most of it had been preserved by refrigeration. According to Miles, 337 t of this refrigerated meat was preserved by “embalming.” That meant injecting it with dangerous chemicals. In response to these charges, President William McKinley appointed a commission headed by Major-General James F. Wade to investigate. He found no evidence that any of the beef fed to troops was tainted. Instead, Wade’s investigation blamed the way the meat had been handled between the Chicago packing plants where it originated and the soldiers in the field. Poor sanitation, slow delivery, lack of cold storage warehouses in Cuba, lack of ice to preserve the meat en route to the battlefield; these were the causes of the problems which led to the complaints (Young, Pure food: securing the federal food and drugs act of 1906. Princeton University Press, Princeton, pp 135–137, 1989).