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Lewis Hoppie's livestock near Lexington, 1887
Lewis Hoppie’s livestock near Lexington, 1887.
Courtesy Nebraska State Historical Society, RG2608-3014

Not native to Nebraska, beef began moving here after the Civil War. The start of meat-processing plants in Chicago, the swarming of gold miners to the Black Hills, the destruction of the Plains bison (making more room for cattle and creating a need for a new meat source for Native Americans), all gave Nebraska the demand for beef and made it a perfect place to raise it. The end of the nineteenth century saw a spurt of phenomenal growth in the beef industry, a spurt full of changes and challenges.

In the 1870s, Americans’ taste for beef became more refined. The Texas Longhorn, the animal that could take care of itself, produced lean and tough meat. Americans developed a taste for the more tender and flavorful meat produced by English and Scottish breeds, like Hereford and Angus.
longhorn cattle
hereford cattle
Longhorn and Hereford Cattle.
Courtesy Nebraska State Historical Society, RG3311-83, RG1085-04-11
Alexander Hamilton Swan, a Scottish rancher from Wyoming, was one of the first to try to fulfill this new beef preference. Swan was so influential that his admirers acted much like fans of a famous celebrity would today.
From the 2008 NET Television production Beef State

Alexander Swan
Alexander Swan, Wyoming Rancher, 1831-1905.
Courtesy American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming, 160327

Swan was quoted as saying,

"In our business, we are often compelled to do certain things which, to the inexperienced, seem a little crooked."
Evidently, some of the other ranchers felt the same way, as our story of beef continues.

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Susan La Flesche Picotte

1850-1874 Beef Moves to Nebraska
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Follow THE STORY OF BEEF through the decades.
Beef Moves
to Nebraska
High Falutin’
Beef Goes Modern
NE Beef
Goes Global