Prior to the implementation of stricter health regulations, the butchering of animals for meat was often done in scattered shops that reeked from the discarded organic and liquid waste from the processing of the carcasses. Some cities confined the entire butchering to a specific district of the city.
On this date in 1916, the City of Devils Lake was demonstrating its new abattoir. The new slaughtering facilities required that all butchers within the city must use the facility to kill and dress all animals. But even more importantly, all meat consumed within city limits had to be killed and inspected at the abattoir, with the final processing of the meat done at the various butcher shops within the city.
The building, located in the southwest part of the city, was 26 by 38 feet with a full basement. The main floor was fourteen feet high, composed of brick with an overlay of concrete. A section of the main floor was divided into two killings rooms, one for cattle and one for sheep and hogs. The overlay of concrete allowed for the walls to be washed down on a regular basis. The blood from the animals was collected separately and allowed to harden. Other waste was collected in tanks to avoid spillage into the sewers of the city thus avoiding the odors normally associated with such a facility.
Running throughout the building was a system of pulleys, along with tracks and side tracks that allowed for the smooth transition of the meat from one station to the next. All meat was hung in the building for twenty-four hours – both to allow for inspection and to allow time for the meat to cool. Since hogs required additional procedures, such as scalding, a huge vat was available with heat supplied from the building’s furnace as well as a separate pulley system for handling the meat.
The basement contained the superintendent’s office, the furnace and the private lockers of the butchers. This part of the facility also housed its own well. Surrounding the building on the outside were the pens and loading docks with posts set in concrete. It was the pride of the city and met the recently enacted federal laws – protecting the people of Devils Lake from the environmental pollution found in other cities.
The abattoir was somewhat of a novelty at the time, but it assured consumers that the meat they ate had been inspected and was safe to consume.
Dakota Datebook written by Jim Davis
Devils Lake Journal November 13, 1916