the british & the argentine beef trade         a tale of pampas past  

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Short extract from the "Forgotten Colony" by Andrew Graham-Yooll. Published 1981. Click on a book to purchase.


Image taken from the excellent Argentina from a British Point of View - notes on Argentine Life Tells the 1910 story of the Ogilvie family in depth - estancia life, city life of the Anglo families, climate, entertainment, travel, life in the army. Well indexed and supported with photos, charts and figures. A real gem!

A shop owned by the River Plate Fresh Meat Co in Rhondda Cynon Taf, Wales (date unknown). Click for full size image from the Rhondda Cynon Taf Library service.Argentina's traditional salted-beef trade and old-time saladero got their revolution with the aid of British enterprise. It was George Drabble, of the Central Argentine Railway, who set up the River Plate Fresh Meat Company Ltd, in 1882, using refrigeration in his attempt to improve the dry- and salted-meat trade. Refrigeration had been tested in Australia and, on a small scale, by one man in Buenos Aires. Drabble built his plant at Campana and, in 1883, the first shipment was made. Shipowners had no knowledge of the new industry to induce them to overhaul vessels, so shippers had to provide the equipment and instal it themselves. The Houl- Brothers Line ship Meath was fitted and carried the first shipment to London, arriving in January 1884. The meat-packing business which was to make Argentina famous had begun. 

Original ad image for Liebig beef extract. Click for full image.Liebig's Extract of Meat Company had started in London in 1865 with a capital of £150,000. It produced `Extractum Carnis Liebig', invented by Justus von Liebig, in Germany, in 1847. Georg Christian Giebert, a German railway engineer living in Uruguay, read about Liebig and his offer to give his formula to any person who wished to produce it in South America - because production was too costly in Europe, as thirty kilos of lean meat were required to make one of extract. Hamburg-born Giebert got the licence to produce the extract in 1865 and started the Societe de Fray Bentos Giebert & Cie., at Fray Bentos, on the River Uruguay. But he needed capital almost immediately and sought it in London. From 800 kilos in the first month of operations, production rose to 500,000 kilos ten years later. And in 1878 the company started to produce corned beef.

The origin of the Argentine Estates of Bovril Ltd is traced to those times. In October 1871 one Eustaquio de la Riestra put up a beef-salting plant at Santa Elena, on the River Parana, with a partner named Federico Gonzales. This plant was bought in 1880 by the German Kemmerich Company and, in 1908, by Bovril, which also became a landowning and cattle-raising concern. These were followed, in 1910, by the La Plata Cold Storage Co., a United States company better known by its name as from 1916, The Swift of La Plata. Almost a decade later, the Vestey family group, Union International, opened the Anglo meat-packing company on the Buenos Aires South Dock. (For more on Bovril, see link below)

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Further links:

El Anglo and Fray Bentos Extract from Lost Cowboys: From Patagonia to the Alamo by Hank Wangford who describes his visit to the Fray Bentos factory in 1996.    
The British: End of Empire in the Slaughterhouse: Fábrica Colόn & Corned Beef  Article about Fábrica Colόn, now Pueblo Liebig, the frigorífico across the river Uruguay from the Fray Bentos Anglo Corned beef factory. Good history of the plant and an outline of their position today. Pictures of Fray Bentos Anglo plant today.
The British - End of Empire, la Forestal Article on the Forestal Land, Timber and Railways Company, which came to epitomise British colonial influence in a country that was not a colony.
The British & Argentine Railways Britons placed more long-term investment in South America during the nineteenth century than in any other geographic region. This extract outlines its development
Argentina, 1852-1942: Economics Links to the background history of the period.

The Company town: architecture and society in the early industrial age  By John S. Garner Useful google book preview on the architecture and role of company towns like Puerto Liebig.
History of Liebig's Meat Extract. Full article from Uni of Geissen. Good images. In German. Cannot be googled as it is a pdf
Bovril, so good we named a town after it. Link to a site which gives clear, concise outline of the Bovril estates, and the name came first. Bovril, Entre Rios is named after the meat extract, not the other way round… (Site is in Spanish. Click here for google translation.)

El frigorífico del mundo (Meat Plant to the World) Brief article by the Argentine Clarin newspaper on origins and nature of decline but has links to some image gems. (thumbnail links shown below. Just click to go to the Clarin image). In Spanish but can be google translated.

Factory sheds today. Click for the original sized image from Clarin.  Ex emplyee in the sheds. Click for the original sized image from Clarin.The plant at full steam! Click for full Clarin image.

You might also like to visit one of these related topic sites on the history of Argentina:


  Enjoyed this extract?
Read the rest of the book in Spanish! " La colonia olvidada " traza la historia compleja e interesante de las comunidades de habla inglesa en la Argentina. A pesar de su escaso número, han tenido un presencia nada desdeñable y mantienen su presencia distintiva en la vida y cultura argentinas.

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    Enjoyed this extract?
Read the rest of the book! The Forgotten Colony by the well known journalist and writer, Andrew Graham Yooll, is a classic reference to the life and institutions of the community in Argentina. The book was first published in London in 1981, and was reprinted ten years later which incorporates new material and corrections.

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Images are not those of the extract source. Most can be clicked through for further information/resources.







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