Convenient and economical but not pleasant to the eye: Selling Australian preserved meat 1860–1880.

Meanwhile in Australia the first experiments with meat canning began in the early 1840s. However, the discovery of gold which put paid to cheap raw materials and reduced the available labour force, and a major scandal over the supply of inadequately processed tinned meat to the Royal Navy, caused the Australian industry to falter until overproduction and falling prices encouraged livestock producers to consider less wasteful and potentially more profitable alternatives to simply boiling down carcasses to produce tallow. Exporting canned meat was a promising proposition for Australian producers in the late 1860s. Given the situation in Britain the canned product was cheaper than fresh meat and faced no competition from America, currently embroiled in Civil War. There seemed to be good prospects for making ‘the redundancy of one part of the earth subserve to the scarcity of other parts’.

Thanks to food historian Alison Vincent for permission to publish this paper presented to the Australian Historical Association, 2 December, 2021

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