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Susan Green

You Pay More Now – For Less Meat

War Speculation a Bonanza to Food Profiteers

(17 February 1941)

From Labor Action, Vol. 5 No. 7, 17 February 1941, pp. 1 & 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

NEW YORK CITY – Pork prices were 29 per cent higher at the beginning of this month than they were a year ago. Beef prices are up 2½ per cent, veal 16 per cent and lamb 14½ per cent.

Here is something for the working woman to worry about. War profiteering in food has begun in good earnest.

Consumer protest against the high cost of meat came to a head when the president of the Greater New York Hospital Association kicked about it to the National “Defense” Advisory Commission. He claimed that the 25 per cent rise in the cost of meat during the last year was dislocating the budgets of the affiliated hospitals.

The grumblings of housewives have become louder and louder and consumers’ organizations are up in arms. In the poorest districts meat prices have been absolutely prohibitive and already families have been limited to the cheapest cuts of meat and to meat substitutes.

As was to have been expected, the profiteers claim the increase in prices is legitimate and due to “increased consumption arising out of the defense program.” However, Miss Harriet Elliott, consumer member of the National “Defense” Advisory Commission, denies this. She states:

“Consumers should be reluctant to accept price increases attributed to the defense program. Army purchases of meat are not large enough to affect prices significantly.”

What has actually happened is the beginning of the price speculation that always accompanies a war. Producers, processors and distributors of meat are engaging in the lucrative game known as war profiteering.

The millions of consumers who are not receiving larger incomes this year than last and are in no position to pay higher prices, are today poorer in buying power than they were a year ago. The meat packers and the profiteers in other foods are a good deal richer.

The solution suggested by Miss Elliott is really very amusing. She literally advises the consumers to evade the entire question. She says if certain cuts are too high, the housewife should buy cheaper cuts or NO MEAT AT ALL. Miss Elliott generously offers to be helpful and to “supply much valuable information on the preparation of low cost meat dishes or of well-balanced meatless meals.”

And Next Year!

Another thing supposed to hold out promise to the gypped consumer is the usual useless “investigation.” The anti-trust division of the Department of Justice has undertaken to investigate trade restraints affecting meat prices. Don’t expect that empty government gesture to put pork, beef, veal or lamb into the empty pot on your stove. Ben W. Lewis, chief economist to the Consumers Division of the National “Defense” Advisory Commission, doesn’t expect that miracle to happen, either.

He reveals the important fact that farmers are keeping cattle for breeding purposes in anticipation of STILL HIGHER PRICES NEXT YEAR.

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Last updated: 4 August 2014