Livestock Transportation - 1800s

1800s

Chicago’s meat exports had risen to almost 10% by 1848. Supposedly the first shipment of live cattle to Chicago by rail car was in 1867 on the Kansas Pacific Railway. About twenty carloads of Longhorns from Texas left the rail yard at Abilene, Kansas on the Kansas Pacific Railroad destined for the Chicago Stock Yards. This event changed the face of the livestock industry. Cattle from Texas were driven to rail yards for transport to major feeders, processors, and packers. Cattle trails were carefully chosen to minimize distance and maximize feed to sustain and fatten cattle. Cowboys were hired to gather, drive, and hold cattle at major buying stations. Cowboys reported route trail fatalities of about 3%. As the railroads expanded, processors multiplied and refrigeration technology developed, the refrigerated rail car was patented in 1867. The need to drive cattle ended and the cattle drive trail disappeared by 1889. The improvement of refrigerated transport gave birth to the dressed meat market. The distribution of dressed meat exploded, causing the need to ship live cattle by rail to slowly decrease and to become economically unfeasible.

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