During the Holidays I visited family in Ohio and of course, we spent a post-Christmas afternoon shopping for deals. Driving through Piqua, Ohio, on US-36, I noticed a ramp attached to the side of a large, brick building that I had driven past hundreds of times.
The building was originally home to The Val Decker Packing Company (the Piquality Company … clever!) and is situated on the Great Miami River. Like nearly all slaughter plants of that era, it used the river as a means to dispose of slaughter waste (modern plants and their waste treatment capabilities are another example of how much the slaughter industry has improved in the last century). It operated until 1981. According to some local old-timers, this plant was the first to slaughter for Certified Angus Beef. That’s the local farmer lore — I have no idea whether or not it is accurate — but, it makes for a good story. Now the building is a business office and garage for Piqua City Schools.
Noteworthy of this structure, and the reason it caught my attention, is that the original livestock ramp is still attached to the side of the building. The first large slaughterhouses were large, multi-level structures that utilized gravity — slightly down-angled rails and chutes — to move carcasses and cuts around the facility. Now plants use mechanized chains and belts to move items.
Livestock were walked up to the top level then slaughtered. Alternatively, livestock might have been stunned at ground level and then allowed to bleed out while being hoisted to the top level. I have been to one pork plant in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, that operated this way (closure of that plant was announced in 2010). The Sioux Falls plant was an amazing site, hams whizzing past you down slides, rickety wooden staircases, and evidence of 100+ years of retrofitting and updating as food safety and quality expectations changed during the century.
I have to wonder if the people who work in the offices located here (the front has been renovated and appears rather nondescript).