How ground beef replaced steak in the basket in 1959

Over the past year, the price of ground beef has skyrocketed. In July 2022, this food saw its price increase by almost 20% during the period and even 25% for the frozen version, according to the IRI Institute, a private organization that especially raises prices in mass distribution. We are talking about the increase in production costs: grain for cattle feed, energy and packaging. Faced with this increase, some municipalities have announced the increase in the price of the meal in the canteen, others prefer to remove the starter or dessert, others still offer more vegetarian menus.

For many years, minced meat had become the main part of the family’s meals. Simple and quick to prepare, mincemeat also had the advantage of being easy for children to cut. But since when do the French eat ground beef? Contrary to popular belief, this food did not enter” household basket and on their children’s plates only too late. In 1959! We have found the origins of this revolution in our archives.

Shortage and high prices

Back in 1959. A few years after the end of the war, the crews had not yet been reconstituted. The French, who once ate meat only once a week, often in the Sunday pot-au-feu, began to add it more often to their menu. With a star on the plates: the beef steak. Yes, but now, that year, France had experienced a heat wave during the spring and summer. When the hay ran out, the shepherds struggled to feed their cattle. A high demand and a shortage of bullocks, all the elements were present to make the kilo price explode.

To compensate for the high cost of this product, the butchers’ union had to launch a brilliant idea: to buy what was then called ” low pieces for the housewives instead of the good steak. For this we had to find a trick to make this less tender meat more attractive. The butchers’ brilliant idea was then to offer this meat in minced form and to extol its benefits on television to housewives. This commercial operation is evident in our archives, such as this cookery section taken from an October 1959 women’s magazine which can be found at the top of the article.

Maïté Célérier de Sanois, the then culinary columnist, had been called upon to praise the nutritional properties of this ” excellent ” minced meat. This information notice was intended to promote the consumption of minced beef from “ previous pieces of the animal, mostly used in stews, but little sought after by cooks. The campaign was accompanied by a slogan that was presented several times in the image: ” Mothers! For your children’s health, make them eat ground beef “with this reassuring mention,” recommended by the medical profession “, as well as this conclusion, a moral nothing,” and don’t forget that the national economy is in many cases directly linked to the shopping basket “.

A public advertisement

This information campaign was widely disseminated in the television news, as in this topic presented in July 1959 at 20.00 on the only channel in RTF. The report produced on the rue de Seine in Paris depicted a butcher during a price check on his beef by a bailiff. An inspection supervised by two representatives of housewives’ associations. The opportunity for the butcher to mention the rise in meat prices and suggest that if the housewife bought ” small pieces at a really reasonable price », rather than much more expensive – and rarer – steak, we would “lower the price of steak “.

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