The Growth of the American Economy: An Introduction to the Economic History of the United States

By Robert G. Albion; Harold F. Williamson | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 10
The Processing of Agricultural Products in the Pre-Railway Age

PROCESSING means subjecting materials to a process of manufacture, development, or preparation for the market; converting something into marketable form, as livestock by slaughtering, grain by milling, cotton by spinning, milk by pasteurization, fruits and vegetables by sorting and packing. There are four main types of processing. (1) In some industries, such as the refining of sugar, an extractive process is involved in which, mainly by the application of heat, the refined product is extracted from the raw. (2) Meat packing is an analytical process in which a basic raw material is disintegrated or decomposed into several different products. These end products may consist of one or more main products and dozens, or even hundreds, of by-products. (3) In the synthetic or assembly process several elements are combined to make a single product. The baking of bread serves as an example of this type of manufacture, for flour, sugar, dry milk, solids, and shortening are combined with other ingredients to produce the end product. (4) Finally, there are industries engaged mainly in changing the shape, texture, form, or size of the material on which they operate. These are called converting industries. A creamery, churning cream into butter, would fall into this classification.


Extent and Variety of the Agricultural Processing Industries

A quick survey will show the extent and variety of these industries. Some are based on the cereals: wheat, corn, oats, barley, rice, and so forth. These provide raw materials for flour milling, baking, the manufacture of cereal breakfast foods. From corn come whiskey and alcohol, as well as starch, corn syrup, and a multitude of other products. Second, there are the industries based on animal husbandry, including the production of dairy products: creameries producing butter, cheese factories, plants producing condensed and powdered milk, and ice cream factories. The raising of sheep and goats provides raw material for textile mills. Cattle hides form the basis of the leather industry; and cattle, hogs, and sheep of the meat-packing industry. Poultry and eggs must undergo some processing before they are ready for the market,

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