The Business of Being a Housewife

The Business of Being a Housewife

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Excerpt from The Business of Being a Housewife
As meat is one of the most important items of American diet, its price is a matter of moment to every housewife. Comparisons between the cost of live animals and the price per pound of meat sometimes lead to the conclusion that the existing margin is too wide and that possibly the profits of the middleman are too large.
After fair analysis, the housewife realizes that a live animal is not all meat and, furthermore, that the meat carcass is not all steaks and rib roasts. A comparison, therefore, between the live cost of meat animals per pound and the cost per pound of a tenderloin is misleading, if it results in any conclusions relative to margins.
Then we must reckon with the wide difference in grades of meat. We cannot correctly estimate the cost of a steak cut from a prime beef by that of a steak from a grass-fed cow. There are several grades of meat, depending upon the nature and feeding, each wholesome and nutritious, but some demanding more special cooking than others.
About fifty-five percent of a steer is meat; the remainder includes the hide and various other by-products, which, except the hide, are not worth in their primary state anywhere near as much per pound as they cost alive. The fifty-five percent of the animal which is meat must, .therefore, carry the greater portion of the original cost. That is why a steer carcass might be sold by the packer for twenty cents a pound and still fail to pay a profit, even though the live animal cost the packer only twelve cents a pound. The casual observer, noting a difference of eight cents a pound between the live animal and the carcass, might say a sixty-six percent increase in price is unduly large; but a little deeper study develops that the return from the carcass in this instance would fail to equal the amount paid for the live steer.
When a retailer buys a carcass, he purchases neck meat as well as loins; chucks as well as rounds. Portions of the carcass have to be sold at or sometimes less than he paid per pound for the carcass. The choice cuts necessarily have to make up for the losses on the less desirable portions. It is not unreasonable, therefore, that the retailer should charge fifty or sixty cents a pound for choice steaks and fifteen cents a pound for boiling beef out of a carcass which he bought at the rate of twenty cents a pound.
Only the aggregate price which the retailer gets for all parts and portions of the carcass will show his margin over the initial cost. It is wholly improper, therefore, to compare sixty-cent steaks with twelve-cent cattle with a view to determining profit.
The same thing is true of hogs and of sheep. A hog is not all meat, nor is the meat all ham. A sheep is not all carcass and only a small part of the carcass cuts up into chops. One must know the aggregate return and something about the costs of doing business before a justifiable conclusion as to price margins can be determined.
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