Brewster, John (5 of 25). Food: From Source to Salespoint

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  • Subjects

    Meat industry

  • Recording date


  • Recording locations

    Butcher's Hall, London

  • Interviewees

    Brewster, John, 1930- (speaker, male)

  • Interviewers

    Russell, Polly (speaker, female)

  • Abstract

    Part 5: Tape 4 Side A; JB’s uncle did not like drover’s driving sheep from the horseback. Details of this. Talks about how animals rested before being killed so ‘that they bled better’. Uncle’s business predominantly cattle. Uncle employed about 1000 workers. JB believes the animals were treated well – ‘ absolutely essential, if you want good meat you have got to have happy animals; Most meat from Argentine was from castrated bullocks. Meat much fatter than these days – ‘the flavour was in the fat.’ Describes why the bullock was castrated and about ‘the five sexes of cattle’. Talks about ‘bobby calf’ – calf taken with cow to market to prove a cow could milk and calf always cost a ‘bob’ and was then killed; Uncle’s business did very well right up until the 2nd World War. Uncle and Aunt very wealthy, able to build a golf course; Health and hygiene in factory high standard for the time. Important to maintain hygiene because prolonged life in UK having travelled for three weeks from Argentina. During the war meat sent under the guarantee of the British government and during war built up credit with the bank of Buenos Aries. Not much control about what was being sent and what was arriving in UK. At the end of the war S&A asked for money back. Change to socialist government meant policy of bulk buying. British government sent a delegation to the Argentine to get more beef. Delegation negotiated deal with the Argentine government to pay debt which included meat industry debt. Deal done that British government got one year of free meat and traded the debt for railways and meat to Argentine government. S&A then had to ask Argentine government for money owed from war and government denied knowledge and never paid. ‘Smithfield & Argentine meat company never got paid for the meat that they sent, never. So we were virtually bankrupt, just like that; Talks about impact of Peron on countryside. Feels that the country people were ‘promised the earth’. Thinks this ruined the lives of many. Factory workers went on strike for 18 months. Recalls day the vet was shot in the leg by protestors. English people kept the boilers running to keep factory working. Entered via boat to avoid the picket lines – everyone had guns. Reached point where S&A was bankrupt. JB’s uncle had to negotiate with company set up by Argentine government called CAP –Corporation of Argentine Producers – still going. Uncle ‘could not get a price for the factory’ but had insured factory for high sum and threatened to burn factory down if they did not give him the insurance money. But when converted back into sterling the money equated to very little; JB’s last memory of the factory was the bones (from boning out beef sent back to UK during the war). A stockpiled mountain of bone ‘became whiter and whiter’. Hundred yards wide, twelve foot high and a mile and a half long. JB went shooting rats and bird nesting there. ‘One of my last memories was looking out on this while mass of bones’. In the end the pile was turned into bone meal; Uncle then left the country and JB ‘shipped out’ to the delta to stay with guardian Alec Delah. JB’s uncle had set him up in business producing ropes and timber in company called Delah & Brewster. JB thinks the delta was a good place to live as a boy. Had great deal of freedom but felt ‘the loss of my mother’ who returned to England. Eventually JB was shipped back to UK and did a course in matriculation at Earls Court. Did badly and was then called up; Factory in Argentina still there but ‘there is nothing there for us. It’s tragic really, that it should all end so badly.’ JB does not recall seeing poverty in Argentina – thinks people were poor but ‘they were of that time’. Feels that Peron and Evita ruined the Argentine; After collapse of business in Argentine Uncle became involved with Norwegian company who fished for whales. Uncle advised on refrigeration of whale. Recalls large quantities of whale being sold in the UK during late 40s and early 50s.

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