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Would you enjoy beef in the days before refrigeration?

November 11, 2021

Mark Fell with a Bull on Colborne Street, Fenelon Falls

While some families in town were fortunate enough to have an ice box and purchased blocks of ice that were harvested in winter and kept in an ice house, many farm families made do without. While fruits and vegetables could keep for some period of time, to have meat, farmers co-operated to create beef rings, so the neighbourhood would butcher one of their own animals per week. Still imagine eating beef (with potatoes, carrots and onions of course), practically every day, and also eating beef when it is getting towards the end of the week… aging improves the flavour right? This may explain why many old farmers liked their meat well done.

An excerpt from T.H. Martin’s Pioneer Gleanings From Verulam about Beef Rings:

As there was no practically no way of keeping meat fresh before the advent of refrigeration, groups of farmers in six different areas got together and formed what was called a beef ring. This consisted of twenty men agreeing to furnish a beef carcass weighing about 400 lbs. in turns. This supplied each with 20lbs of fresh beef each week. Some who had smaller families took what was known as a half share and these two arranged between them who would supply the animal. A butcher was hired at about $4.00 each week and a secretary or clerk at $2.00 to keep the books. The women folk sewed the names of the different families on white flour bags which were hung around the slaughter house on a nail beside their name.

The animal would be brought in generally each Monday evening mostly by two men on a rope as trucks had not arrived at this time. It was butchered on Tuesday evening and processed early on Wednesday. The members took turns picking up and delivering the meat weekly.

Verulam Township Butchers: William A. Flett, John Martin, Thomas Henderson, Robert Britton, Clayton Taylor, Alex and Torrance Robertson, Sam Thurston.

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