Friday, April 14, 2017

US WWI Sheep ๐Ÿ‘ Subsidies ๐Ÿ“‰ vs Mutton ๐Ÿฅ˜Prices Today ๐Ÿ“ˆ

Kim Severson's April 11, 2017 New York Times article "Ham or Lamb? The Easter Choice May Be Changing" speculates on why Americans don't eat more lamb relative to domestic ham consumption and relative to international lamb consumption.


























The article states that wool was in high demand during WWI and WWII but ignores the fact that wool was subsidized by the Federal Government



























"Still, lamb (from a sheep that is about a year old or younger) and mutton (which comes from mature sheep) used to be more common when wool was in higher demand. In the 1940s, there were 56 million sheep in the United States. Now there are about six million.
The need for wool ebbed with the rise of synthetic fabrics and the end of World War II, when wool manufacturers were no longer pressed to make uniforms. The war also helped kill America’s appetite for meat from sheep: Canned mutton was included in military rations, Ms. Wortman said, and soldiers came home vowing never to eat it again."
The article speculates that preference for ham over lamb might be due to ethnological and culinary reasons, as is illustrated by this supposedly spoof video on Greek Easter traditions:







Americans also might eat more ham vs lamb for purely economical over theological reasons, as illustrated by April 9 thru April 15, 2017 Meijer weekly grocery store ad where ham = $2.79/lb vs lamb = $4.99/lb





















Something I always found peculiar about the 1930s film "Stage Door" was the running gag that lamb stew is the dish of the down and out and indigent:




video



cat lady: Speaking of slums, when do we eat?
maid: Wash your necks, children, the lamb's about to be sacrificed.
cat lady: I refuse to wash my neck for lamb stew



video


cat lady: Well, come on Henry. Mother's going to get you some of that lovely lamb stew. Maybe there's a mouse in it!



video




cat lady: Now I know why sheepherders go crazy. It's the lamb stew!
sassy chick: If this cat of yours ever turns up missing around dinner time I'm eating out that night
cat lady: I bet [land lady's] husband died of wool poisoning



Lamb, in today's economy, is rather an expensive cut of meat. It dawned on me there could've been two variables impacting the price of lamb relative to beef. First, the Dust Bowl attacked the primary grazing grounds for cattle and would've driven up the price of beef. The Dust Bowl was exacerbated by US government policies of subsidizing wheat farmers in WWI which encouraged them to bring marginal farmland into production which eventually resulted in excessive soil erosion of 1930s.


Additionally, the US govt also subsidized sheep farmers, and apparently angora goats as well, to produce wool sweaters and uniforms for the US Army.

The number of sheep has drastically fallen since the 19th C, even without normalizing the data for the increased human population in the nation, from the open book "Changes in the Sheep Industry in the United States: Making the Transition from Tradition ( 2008 )"



Ironically, sheep farmers may have been victims of their own success:

"The U.S. sheep and lamb inventories reached a high of 54 million head in 1884 and then declined slowly to a low of about 37 million head in 1923 (Figure 1-1). Inventories quickly turned around again in the 1920s, peaking at 54 million head in 1932 and then reaching an all-time high of 56 million head in 1942. That rapid growth spurred an equally rapid development of a marketing system (including feeding, slaughter, milling, and breaking facilities, and distribution and transport systems) to meet the rapidly growing demands for meat, wool, and other sheep and lamb products during that period. At the same time, the emphasis on sheep production began to shift toward meat rather than wool in response to the demand for protein to feed U.S. troops during World War II."
This report seems to corroborate the sentiment from the Edna Ferber  and George S. Kaufman play:

"American GI experience with mutton during World War II. Lamb was relatively common on American dinner plates before World War II. The experience of American GIs with poor-quality and poorly prepared mutton during the war, however, negatively affected lamb consumption in the households of returning military veterans. This trend is widely recognized anecdotally. For examples of the attitude toward mutton following the war, see Garcia (2004) and Apple (2006)."

Clinton from a Gilbert A. Lewthwaite February 22, 1993 "Baltimore Sun" article "Planned cuts in subsidy getting growers' goats Clinton targets Mohair producers" tried to eliminate wool subsidy:

"Since then the programs have run in parallel, and are currently administered under the National Wool Act of 1954. The Clinton administration wants to put a $50,000 annual subsidy limit per farmer -- down from the current ceiling of $150,000, which drops to $125,000 next year -- on both mohair and wool, saving about $60 million a year, about two-thirds of that from wool subsidies."

and from above cited book, the federal wool subsidy was repealed under the Clinton administration in 1993:


"Loss of the National Wool Act and the Incentive Payment programs. The National Wool Act, in place since 1955, was repealed in 1993. The act provided direct payments and other support through government programs to wool producers. Wool sales plus support payments together represented 28.1 percent of total sheep, lamb, and wool industry revenues in 1990; by 1997, wool alone accounted for only 6.6 percent of industry revenue, compared to 11.2 percent in 1990. As discussed more fully in Chapter 5, the termination of direct payments was a significant loss to wool and mohair producers, resulting in a substantial increase in the rate of contraction of the sheep and lamb industry (USDA, 1999)."



 Obama tried to completely eliminate all wool - goats as well as sheep -  subsidies. Couldn't find current figures on sheep subsidy, but the numbers for angora goats from April 12, 2011 "Asylum Watch" post "Fleeced By The Fleece"


"There are almost two million such goats in the United States, 84 per cent of them in Texas, all of them resplendently clad in thick coats of pearly fleece. Until now, you have almost certainly never known of their existence. Thus you probably also had not heard that Angora goats cost the U.S. government about $ 60 million last year." 
Usually, Democrats are allergic to eliminating government subsidies to any industry. I suspect that since this wool subsidy almost exclusively went to the red state of Texas, Obama was partisanly  motivated to "punish his enemies."






Or, conversely, perhaps leftists are reaching out to their hippy dippy vegan base who don't undertand basic agriculture and mistakenly think that sheep must die in order to harvest wool:


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