10 AUGUST 1872, Page 12


WE remonstrated a fortnight ago with the public for the panic into which they had been betrayed by the rise in the price of coals, bat there seems to be one point on which the panic has some foundation. From all the information we can obtain, we incline to believe that there will be no serious reduction in the price of Meat, and that the poorer section of the middle-class must make up its mind for some years to a distasteful economy in that pleasant article of diet. The limit of supply would appear to have been nearly reached, while the limit of demand is as yet invisible. It is never safe to place bounds to the results which may be achieved when science is stimulated by high pay and a universal demand, but for the present at least these broad facts would appear to be trae. What with the cattle plague, and the foot.and-mouth disease, and the reward offered by the public for quick killing, the supply of cattle for food produced in these islands or imported from abroad does not increase, and except under the temptation of high prices is not likely to increase. The world which can be tapped for supply—until science has immensely increased the facility of transporting live beasts, or has succeeded in freezing dead meat without impairing its quality—does for us as much as it is likely to do, at least for a good many years to come. If we want more, we must give more, which, cheapness being the object, is no particular help. The supply of mutton has positively decreased, and though there may be a change in this respect—sheep-breeding just now being almost as profitable as market-gardening—the change, we may be nearly certain, will not be great enough to overtake the increase of popu- lation, the rise in mutton caused by the rise in beef, and the in- creased demand. This last, indeed, is the most formidable item in the whole account. So great is the increase in the num- bers of the wealthy class, in the wages of the lower class, and in the tendency to physical luxury, that there is a com- petition for joints as well as beasts, a competition which enables the retail butcher to exact a much larger profit for him- self as distributor, and he is exacting it, as of course he has a perfect right to do. He does not destroy human food to keep down the price, as we regret to be told the fish salesmen do, in a way which, if they are not more careful, will bring down Lynch law on their heads ; and short of that method of making war on his kind, the butcher has a right to ask any price he finds he can get, provided he charges all customers alike. There is no chance whatever of this competition for the joints decreasing, and every chance that it will increase very fast, for this reason. Society lea pyramid, and every row you descend the wider is the total mass. In other words, when a new and lower class becomes generally richer, and resolves to buy anything, it comes into market not in tens added to the former tens, but in tens of thousands added at once to the former hundreds, and knocks all previous calculations to pieces. Suppose, for example, the agricultural labourers got their way completely, and had each of them-a pound a week, and desired to eat flesh, as they would do, the additional number of buyers at once thrown into the market would exceed all the buyers previously in the field. There would be, say, 1,000,000 householders to be supplied with meat, instead of 1400,000. If that happened suddenly meat would be 2s. a pound In a month, and never would go back to its old price, and though oar illustration is fanciful, still something exceedingly like it is happening now. Quite a million of households are benefiting by the extraordinary rise in the workmen's wages which has

We greatly fear our friends of the poorer middle-class, with !from £250 to £600 a year, and in especial the main body of the 'clergy, may make up their minds that the normal price of best meat, say ribs of beef for choice, will never be very much under a shilling a pound, and that they must part with one of the great luxuries of life, a free supply of good fresh flesh meat twice a day, or with some other equivalent pleasure, say sufficient service. A. vicar with 1350 a year—we take that example, because it is so true and so familiar—will never again be able to be as liberal as

• he would like to be with meat, without devoting to it an unfair proportion of his income. With two servants, and three in household, and an occasional guest, he will, if he gives meat twice a day, and is what servants call liberal with it, -letting everybody eat freely, consume quite seven pounds a day, -bone included—we take the official ration for Volunteers as our standard—and will find at the end of the year that almost a fourth -of his income has gone on his butcher's bill alone. In fact, that is an under-statement, for if there is anything like waste in his house- hold—aud where is there not some waste in England ?—he can easily run his butcher's bill up to 10s. a week per head, —that is some- thing like £120 a year. lie cannot afford it, as he could twenty-five years ago, when the price was 7d. a pound, and as we quite admit, 'his inability is a great deduction from his enjoyments. It is all 'very well for the rich to talk nonsense out of a balloon, but to people in health, with hungry children and appearances to -support, a free supply of good kindly meat—not pork or that Australian stuff—but meat with juice in it, and as much as Ion want, is, if not an absolute necessity, a very great luxury, and one about which Englishmen have for generations been solicitous. tt is all very well to preach about substitutes, Australian mutton, and fish, and flavoured puddings, and haricot beans, and all the rest of the things the Telegraph recommends, and all of which are good in their way, but who that did not care about money would give up good fresh meat for the sake of them all ? Half of the ,people we are talking about think the meat necessary to health,— which can hardly be quite true, else Scotchmen could not fight and plough and dance so well upon bannocks,—and the other 'half know quite well what it is they like. It is a luxury gone out -of their lives if they have to go without meat, or eat very little of it, and a healthful luxury ; and we are heartily sorry for them, and do not wonder that they write such sharp letters of 'complaint and depression. But there is no consolation to use had out of lying, and anybody who says that meat will speedily be cheap again, that it is all Mr. Forster, or all a temporary plague—why should it be temporary, any more than typhus ?—or all the butchers' extortion, is telling fibs, or at

least making assertions contrary to large masses of ascertainable facts. There is nothing to be done but either to earn more money, -or to feed fewer months, or to devote a larger share of the income to meat, or to restrict its use as carefully as our grandfathers 'used to restrict the use of tea. It is the last course which in the majority of cases of fixed incomes will be adopted, and a very -disagreeable course it necessarily is. The servants will not help -you, but only sulk, and protest that they serve for the strength which comes of good food ; the children will not help you, for if accustomed to meat, they pine for it ; and your own nature will not help you, for if you have an instinct, it is to avoid closeness as to bodily food. That health will suffer we do not believe, bearing the sanitary results of the Lancashire cotton famine well in mind, but there will be a diminution of comfort which to moat men is almost more annoying.

There is, however, no help, unless it comes in the way of pre- pared meat, and as yet science has not helped us much in that direction. We are a little tired of all the praise of Australian prepared meat. It is a very nourishing, and as far as we know very healthy exchange for fresh meat, and in puddings is very palatable, but it is uo more a substitute for a cut of a sirloin or roast leg of mutton than a mess of hominy is a substitute for home-made bread. A few people like it, we believe, but the great majority, if they told the truth, would admit that its recommenda- tion was its cheapness, that it tasted of stewing, and that they entirely agreed with the old gentleman who made a hearty meal of the meat and remarked, " most excellent meat, most excellent meat, very tender, very succulent, very satisfying, and I don't intend to eat it any more." We want something a great deal better than that before Englishmen will give up craving for a cut of the joint, and it does not seem to be forth- coming. Everybody talks of some plan for preparing meat which will be delightful, but nobody gets a joint out of the plans. We have a notion that meat could be prepared in Russia and Hungary in joints, and sent by rail, and having only a week of travel to bear might be very good to eat ; but that is only the idea of a journalist, not the plan of an enterprising grazier. The Telegraph says we might all eat fish, as a red mullet costs less than a mutton-chop, and is quite as nice to eat. Well, so is a red herring, which costs less still ; but it is no more a substitute for meat than rice would be for bread. If the only object is to secure a relish to make the bread go down, that is, to disguise the change from a flesh to a farinaceous diet, that might, we imagine, be easily accomplished. Potted meat can be made wherever meat itself is found, and prepared to bear a long voyage, and potted meat when sound has all the good qualities of flesh, including the fibrin, which is the good quality that all the " extracts of meat" lack ; but still it is only a relish for bread, not meat itself. Strong soup, which might be made to keep almost any time, is a most excel- lent article of consumption ; but just substitute it for fresh meat for a week, and you will soon recognise the difference of support. A real addition to our supplies might, we conceive, be made by breeding pigs so as to produce more flesh and less fat ; but it would be attended by a rise in the price of pork, and would not tend to diminish the strong prejudice against that excellent meat upon which whole nations, including the farmers of New England, have grown healthy and strong. There is no explicable reason why hams as good as those of Yorkshire should not be cured in Cincinnati and sold here at Sd. a pound, nor has ingenuity exhausted itself in the matter of the curing of other meat, a branch of experiment of which we have heard but little. Curing was our forefathers' remedy against the dearness of meat at certain seasons, and we have eaten cured beef—so cured that it would keep for weeks in a Bengal summer—which was a great deal better than ordinary ham. All these devices are, however, only palliatives intended to cover a resort to flour instead of flesh, a resort which will not injure the Englishman in any bodily way, but will pro tanto render him less happy. They will not give the educated poor man his pound of meat a day, nor do we believe there is any device except earning some more money which will.