Pre Canning and Refrigeration

Boiling down works became the norm for disposing of surplus sheep and cattle. As early as 1843 Pastoral Pioneers states “Mr FH Dutton is about to move into town a flock of 500 ewes with a view to boiling them down as the first wholesale experiment of colonial tallow making” By 1870 there was at least one other boiling down plant in Port Adelaide, and William Dean established a canning plant in association with the works but it lost money.(Various Government Statistical Registrars and Livestock Statistical publications)(Yelland Leith, Pads tracks and waters, Govt. of South Australia, (2002)) In 1870 (a Murray flood year) Mr McLean (Pastoral Pioneers Vol 2, P167)(Various Government Statistical Registrars and Livestock Statistical publications), faced with no market for fat stock solved it by establishing a boiling down place at the Government Well on North West Bend. Other biographical sketches note pastoralists at Gawler and Robe both establishing boiling down works and hints that others intended doing similar. It needs to be noted that the prime aim was to dispose of sheep, but cattle were also dispatched in a similar manner. It seems amazing that so many became so wealthy with such limited markets for their product.

108774
Photo No.: 108774 Title: Loading Steam Ship, Woolloomooloo with the first Shipment of export mutton from the South Australian Government Export Produce Depot, Ocean Steamers Wharf at Port Adelaide in October 1895. Date: 1895

In 1875 the State was exporting £1,833,519 worth of wool but the total of all miscellaneous goods was only £174,634 including tallow (25,670 cwt., value £38,511); preserved meats (562 tons value £28,241); leather, hides and skins (£20,549).(Statistical Handbook of the Australian Meat Industry plus various MLA publications) This demonstrates the lack of export markets for beef meat (although canning was having an impact from the early 1870’s) and that numbers needed to be in balance with local population. In the early days all pastoral leases were held with the condition that whenever the land was required for agricultural purposes, the squatter must leave on receiving six months’ notice, the lessee being paid for substantial improvements made on his run.