SWIFT & COMPANY
BRAND NAME COOKING WITH SWIFT & COMPANY
The official company website:
Swift & Company
The following is an excerpt from the book Ideas that
Became Big Business by Clinton Woods. Published by Founders,
Inc. Baltimore, MD, 1959, 414 pages.
Buy this book:
Became Big Business
The Swift Story
"In 1855 a fifteen-year old farm boy
borrowed $20 from his father and bought a fat heifer from a
Cape Code neighbor. It was a bold investment for a mere
youth to undertake but the young man knew exactly how to
make the transaction a profitable one.
After the animal was killed in a barn at home, he dressed it
and his cuts were so good, his prices so reasonable, that he
had little difficulty in selling the beef from his red wagon
to the women of the neighborhood. On finally selling the
heifer's hide he ended up with a small profit and thus did
Gustavus Swift establish himself in business.
This was the "heifer deal" celebrated in meat packing lore,
and from it young Swift began a career that was to lead not
only to the vast organization of Swift & Company but from
this point, too, can be traced the whole conception of the
modern meat industry, shaped as it was by the methods he
established in his own firm.
Young Swift's red wagon rolled on. He became a retailer and
later a wholesaler of meat. He moved steadily westward,
toward the source of livestock supply for he believed that
Chicago, the railroad terminus, was destined to become the
nation's largest livestock market. So, in 1875, at the age
of 35, he arrived in the city as a cattle buyer.
At that time the established packers of Chicago were
essentially interested in pork, curing and packing the meat
during the winter months. Except for supplying local markets
there was little else to occupy them as live cattle were
shipped to the East in railroad cars for processing there.
Soon after Swift arrived in Chicago he conceived the idea of
establishing a fresh meat business--one that would buy
livestock from the plains, dress the meat in large plants
close to the source of supply, and ship the produce to the
fast-growing population of the east.
To set up such a business, a practical "ice-box on wheels"
was needed. Although several men had developed refrigerated
cars, many had serious faults. This is where Swift
intervened. He used the best ideas, raised the money, and
built ten wagons which were the forerunners of today's
On April 1, 1885 when the one-heifer deal was thirty years
old, the business was incorporated as Swift & Company in the
State of Illinois with a capital of $300,000.
Although the company headquarters remained in Chicago, Swift
constantly sought to get as close as possible to the source
of supply. If the move to processing in Chicago had saved
1,000 miles of extra transportation costs on live animals,
it was reasonable to suppose that establishing plants
farther west might save 1,500 miles. Swift's immediate
answer was to build additional meat packing plants in other
centers of livestock production.
The founder died on March 29, 1903 at the age of 63--48
years after he had started in business. The first heifer had
become millions of animals; the original capital of $20 in
1855 had grown to $25,000,000. Annual sales had leaped to
the staggering figure of $200,000,000.
Since then the company has continued to grow and prosper.
New plants have been opened in many locations and the
company's activities have grown into many related fields.
Its most important job today is the processing of basic
foods--meats, poultry, eggs, butter, cheese, ice cream,
lard, shortenings, margarine, etc., as well as a lengthy
list of nourishing protein foods and fats. In addition the
company processes protein feeds and minerals for livestock
and poultry, agricultural chemicals, industrial oils, glues
and adhesives, soaps and dog food. Wool and leather
operations are other important by-product activities.
Swift & Company plants, sales and distributing units may be
found throughout the United States, Canada, and other
countries. There are now about 500 establishments, and the
total employment figure is in the region of 64,000. Total
sales in 1958 were more than $2,600,000,000.
The company has continued to pioneer--in the tradition of
its founder. It has, for many years, been a leader in
research and study of nutrition in all its aspects. Better
products and better packaging can only lead to better
health--there can be no greater maxim than that."