Abattoirs-Usines, the Modernizing Project for the French Meat Trade, and World War I

in Historical Reflections/Réflexions Historiques
Kyri W. Claflin Independent Scholar kyriclaflin@comcast.net

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In the early twentieth century, French academic veterinarians launched a meat trade reform movement. Their primary objective was the construction of a network of regional industrial abattoirs equipped with refrigeration. These modern, efficient abattoirs-usines would produce and distribute chilled dead meat, rather than livestock, to centers of consumption, particularly Paris. This system was hygienic and economical and intended to replace the insanitary artisanal meat trade centered on the La Villette cattle market and abattoir in Paris. The first abattoirs-usines opened during World War I, but within 10 years the experiment had begun to encounter serious difficulties. For decades afterward, the experiment survived in the collective memory as a complete fiasco, even though some abattoirs-usines in fact persisted by altering their business models. This article examines the roadblocks of the interwar era and the effects of both the problems and their perception on the post-1945 meat trade.

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