Beef State
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Beef in the Atomic Age

Mag Me! Select the magnifying glass
for an extreme close-up.
Cudahy Meats booth at food show
Cudahy Meats booth at a food show at Gold & Co. Department Store, Lincoln, NE.
Courtesy Nebraska State Historical Society, RG2183-3-12-56-32
The demands of World War II led to huge technological innovations in the 1950s. Dried and frozen food technologies, coupled with advances in refrigeration, created a new American diet based on convenience foods.
  Mag Me! Select the magnifying glass
for an extreme close-up.
Thousands learned how to feed large numbers of people in the mess tents of war and returned to domestic life to apply those skills in restaurants. And after a decade of depression and five years of war shortages, people were eager to return to dining outside the home. Susan Aegerter & prize 4-H steer
Susan Aegerter from Seward County with her prize 4-H steer at the Cornhusker Hotel, 1956.
Courtesy Nebraska State Historical Society, RG2183-9-10-56
chemist pouring ammonia
Chemist pouring ammonia to be converted into ammonium nitrate for use in the manufacture of highly explosive shells, 1942.
Courtesy Library of Congress Prints Photographs Division, 8b04440u
Huge stockpiles of the explosive ammonium nitrate were redirected after the war to use in agriculture as fertilizer. Wartime chemicals agents like 2-4-D and DDT became herbicides and insecticides. The antibiotics developed during the war soon found applications in veterinary medicine. The muscular diesel engines developed to power military vehicles led to larger and larger trucks and tractors. The combination of the use of chemicals and availability of large equipment allowed dramatic expansion of corn fields, which in turn led to larger and larger beef feeding operations.
Diesel powered semi-trailer trucks allowed ranchers and feeders to ship their cattle on highways. With the completion of the interstate highway system and the addition of refrigeration, trucks replaced trains for the delivery of frozen beef.
Omaha Stockyards trucks
Large trucks at Omaha Stockyards.
Courtesy Nebraska State Historical Society, RG1085-21-08
Mega Feed Lot
Mega Feed Lot in Nebraska
Courtesy Union Pacific Railroad’s film, Beef Rings the Bell
All of these changes came at a price. The use of chemical fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides and the growth of large feeding operations created serious environmental problems. And concerns grew that family farms and ranches were going to be pushed out of business by big corporations.

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