< Last Photo   << Last Chapter                Notes on the Geography of Places: Uruguay: Fray Bentos: the Anglo         Next Chapter >>   Next Photo > 
 

Notes on the Geography of Uruguay: Fray Bentos: the Anglo

Ever seen the slaughterhouse on UNESCO's World Heritage List? Here's your chance.

Make default image size larger

Uruguay: Fray Bentos: the Anglo picture 1

You can see the large block of corrals near the base of the map. Just above it is the tannery or curtiembre, and at the upper left, near the loading dock, is the camarias frias or cold store for both chilled and frozen beef. A yellow line leads from the corrals to the Playa de Faena y Derivados, or slaughterhouse proper and, from there, to the cold store. Next to the cold store is the central office. The main entrance is off to the right.

Uruguay: Fray Bentos: the Anglo picture 2

We'll come in that way, stopping to see this sign recalling Justus von Liebig, "the father of organic chemistry" and, along the way, the inventor of "meat extract." Angus Kennedy was a tinsmith for the Liebig Extract of Meat Company and is buried in the Fray Bentos cemetery, but why he has a street named for him I don't know.

A more plausible contender for the honor would be George Christian Giebert, a German engineer living in Uruguay. About 1860 he read of Liebig's experiments with meat extract, a thick paste made by boiling and filtering meat. It wasn't affordable until Giebert proposed to Liebig that they organize a factory to boil the bodies of Uruguayan cattle that had been slaughtered for their hides. Liebig approved, and the rest is history.

Here's Mulhall in the Handbook of the River Plate, from the 1880s: "Mr. Giebert lived to see his enterprise pay dividents of 18 per cent. per annum to the shareholders, and died in 1874, in the prime of life, having obtained the grand gold medal at Vienna in the preceding year, besides two gold medals at Paris in 1867. The establishment is a town in itself." (1885 ed., p. 610).

Uruguay: Fray Bentos: the Anglo picture 3

LEMCO, or the Liebig Extract of Meat Company, was organized in 1865 in London and was always British financed. It was German staffed until 1924, when the Vestey Brothers, who already controlled the company financially, took it over and changed the name to Frigorifico Anglo del Uruguay. The German staff left for Argentina and elsewhere. Here's some of the company's fancier housing. Pre- or post-1924? Good question.

Uruguay: Fray Bentos: the Anglo picture 4

At some point, this bungalow became a company library.

Uruguay: Fray Bentos: the Anglo picture 5

Closer and we come to a bit of landscaping and a remarkable monument.

Uruguay: Fray Bentos: the Anglo picture 6

"Veritable" because competitors plagued the company from early days.

Uruguay: Fray Bentos: the Anglo picture 7

Denied copyright protection for the name Liebig, the company relied on Liebig's signature.

Uruguay: Fray Bentos: the Anglo picture 8

As early as 1873, the year of Liebig's death and the year before Giebert's, the plant was turning out 500 tons of the stuff annually. Corned beef was added to the product list in 1881 and sold under the brand name Fray Bentos. OXO bouillon was added in 1911. Chilled and frozen beef arrived in the 1920s with the Vestey takeover.

Uruguay: Fray Bentos: the Anglo picture 9

Who made the monument? Don't know, though it had to have been before 1924, when the name Liebig was dropped.

Uruguay: Fray Bentos: the Anglo picture 10

The riders have a "wise men from the East" aura.

Uruguay: Fray Bentos: the Anglo picture 11

The entrance still exists but has been stripped.

Uruguay: Fray Bentos: the Anglo picture 12

The plant's steam engines ran on coal at first, then oil. The pumphouse is now a steakhouse.

Uruguay: Fray Bentos: the Anglo picture 13

Products ready for export were carted over to this dock, a relic if ever there was one.

Uruguay: Fray Bentos: the Anglo picture 14

Rodley is between Bradford and Leeds. The Vestey brothers were from Liverpool, and Sir William at least is buried in the cathedral there. One of these days, this crane is likely to be buried forever in the mud of the Uruguay River.

Uruguay: Fray Bentos: the Anglo picture 15

View from the dock back toward the town of Fray Bentos. Did Vestey ever visit? Good question. With his wife, the whip-smart Evelyn, born (and buried) in Superior, Nebraska? Probably not, but who knows?

Uruguay: Fray Bentos: the Anglo picture 16

Here's the end wall of the refrigerator building or frigorifico. You can make out the name Anglo. If you scrutinize the space below, you can also make out the same word, especially the letter N below the cornice and straddling the second embossed rectangle. The sign at that time had read Frigorifico Anglo.

Uruguay: Fray Bentos: the Anglo picture 17

Side view. The building was built in stages, with the right-hand third added later. When built, the word LEMCO, for Liebig Extract of Meat Company, appeared under the central arch. Inside, the building consists of five floors, each with 10 classroom-sized compartments.

Uruguay: Fray Bentos: the Anglo picture 18

Here's the view between the frigorico and the office building. The rails linked the frigorifico to the dock, behind the camera. Livestock apparently were trailed into the corrals.

Uruguay: Fray Bentos: the Anglo picture 19

Here's the other side of the administrative offices, now housing a museum.

Uruguay: Fray Bentos: the Anglo picture 20

Looking from the office building further into the complex. The steel plates were imported as ballast, then laid here to protect the walkway. They form an indestructible sidewalk but one tricky in wet weather.

Uruguay: Fray Bentos: the Anglo picture 21

Further into the beast.

Uruguay: Fray Bentos: the Anglo picture 22

The chimney was attached to the boiler room needed for preparing the beef extract, bouillon, and corned-beef cannery.

Uruguay: Fray Bentos: the Anglo picture 23

The administrative office. The plant flourished through World War II, then went into a slow decline. Vestey sold it in 1968 to the Uruguayan government, which closed the doors for good in 1979.

Uruguay: Fray Bentos: the Anglo picture 24

A desk to die for. A bit much for carry-on, but you never know.

Uruguay: Fray Bentos: the Anglo picture 25

One floor below. The displays are interesting but not as compelling as the structure itself, built to last.

Uruguay: Fray Bentos: the Anglo picture 26

Welcome to the refrigeration plant with its ammonia compressors.

Uruguay: Fray Bentos: the Anglo picture 27

Presumably, it ran until the late 1970s.

Uruguay: Fray Bentos: the Anglo picture 28

You can see why UNESCO lists this place as a monument to the industrial revolution.

Uruguay: Fray Bentos: the Anglo picture 29

The electrical control room.

Uruguay: Fray Bentos: the Anglo picture 30

A touch of elegance.

Uruguay: Fray Bentos: the Anglo picture 31

Something like 70 pounds of meat was boiled and filtered to make a pound of beef extract.

Uruguay: Fray Bentos: the Anglo picture 32

Corned beef was sterilized in autoclaves like these.

Uruguay: Fray Bentos: the Anglo picture 33

And here's where cattle became meat. They walked in on that ramp on the far side.

Uruguay: Fray Bentos: the Anglo picture 34

One by one, they were trapped in one of three compartments.

Uruguay: Fray Bentos: the Anglo picture 35

A man on these boards rested his knee on the padded rim and clobbered the animal's skull with a sledgehammer.

Uruguay: Fray Bentos: the Anglo picture 36

The side gate was raised, and the animal tumbled down, where it was shackled and hoisted.

Uruguay: Fray Bentos: the Anglo picture 37

In the next few minutes, the animal was skinned and disassembled, its blood captured in troughs.

Uruguay: Fray Bentos: the Anglo picture 38

By the 1920s, beef halves were railed down this way to the refrigerator building.

Uruguay: Fray Bentos: the Anglo picture 39

From that path, here's a view of the boiler-room chimney, flanking the building where beef was made into extract.

Uruguay: Fray Bentos: the Anglo picture 40

Another view.

Uruguay: Fray Bentos: the Anglo picture 41

The view back to the slaughterhouse.

Uruguay: Fray Bentos: the Anglo picture 42

And the view to the other side.

Uruguay: Fray Bentos: the Anglo picture 43

The interior of the refrigerator building is in rough shape. Here's the corridor leading to the refrigeration compartments, some for chilled beef and others for frozen.

Uruguay: Fray Bentos: the Anglo picture 44

At least one of the compartments is clean enough to show visitors.

Uruguay: Fray Bentos: the Anglo picture 45

Here's the "big house," the house built nearby for Giebert, the entrepreneur. He died before having much if any chance to enjoy it.

Uruguay: Fray Bentos: the Anglo picture 46

The museum has many historic photos, including this one of the entrance, presumably showing people leaving work.

Uruguay: Fray Bentos: the Anglo picture 47

Some corrals were in buildings; others weren't. The company owned its own ranches.

Uruguay: Fray Bentos: the Anglo picture 48

Were the workers able to stay as clean as they appear here or was this photo staged?

Uruguay: Fray Bentos: the Anglo picture 49

Not quite so immaculate. Some visitors claim that they can still smell blood in the building.

Uruguay: Fray Bentos: the Anglo picture 50

Loading at the wharf. The Vestey's had opened a refrigerated warehouse in London, and they supplied it with beef carried in the ships of their own Blue Star Line. Weddel, which is now a subsidiary of Swift, was an Australian company acquired by the Vestey's in 1934.

Uruguay: Fray Bentos: the Anglo picture 51

Sheep were processed, too.

Uruguay: Fray Bentos: the Anglo picture 52

Skinning.

Uruguay: Fray Bentos: the Anglo picture 53

Bagging organic fertilizer.

Uruguay: Fray Bentos: the Anglo picture 54

Tallow?

Uruguay: Fray Bentos: the Anglo picture 55

The frigorifico before its lateral expansion.

Uruguay: Fray Bentos: the Anglo picture 56

And after.

Uruguay: Fray Bentos: the Anglo picture 57

Under construction.

Uruguay: Fray Bentos: the Anglo picture 58

A grim mosaic of ID photos. The plant at its peak had 5,000 workers. Labor strife was minimal because there was an infinite supply of willing replacements.



* Argentina * Australia * Austria * Bangladesh * Belgium * Botswana * Brazil * Burma / Myanmar * Cambodia (Angkor) * Canada (B.C.) * China * The Czech Republic * Egypt * Fiji * France * Germany * Ghana * Greece * Guyana * Hungary * India: Themes * Northern India * Peninsular India * Indonesia * Israel * Italy * Japan * Jerusalem * Jordan * Kenya * Laos * Kosovo * Malawi * Malaysia * Mauritius * Mexico * Micronesia (Pohnpei) * Morocco * Mozambique * Namibia * The Netherlands * New Zealand * Nigeria * Norway * Oman * Pakistan * Peru * The Philippines * Poland * Portugal * Romania (Transylvania) * Senegal * Singapore * South Africa * South Korea * Spain * Sri Lanka * Sudan * Syria (Aleppo) * Tanzania * Thailand * Trinidad * Turkey (Istanbul) * Uganda * The U.A.E. (Dubai) * The United Kingdom * The Eastern United States * The Western United States * Oklahoma * Uruguay * Uzbekistan * Vietnam * The West Bank * Yemen * Zambia * Zimbabwe *
go back to previous picture go to next chapter go to next picture go to previous chapter page