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Paul Coates

March 26, 2008 |  4:47 pm

March 26, 1958

Paul_coates In an effort to hammer down the rising price of beef, housewives in several Southland communities are organizing boycotts on expensive cuts.

Their methods of resistance to the boosts include:

In Pasadena, a group of women is passing petitions to be forwarded to their congressmen demanding immediate reduction of prices. They're also shunning all meats on which prices have recently been upped.

In the Glendora-Azusa area, a 2-week-old campaign to boycott beef is reported picking up new backers.

And in several areas throughout the San Fernando Valley, a "chain-phone" drive to snub the butcher shop is claimed to be picking up momentum.

Each woman contacted by phone is requested to make no purchases of beef for the following two weeks, and to telephone five of her friends with the same request.

The phone campaign was launched by Mrs. Harriet Wasserman, 5915 Adela Ave., Encino. She called 11 persons in Sherman Oaks, Canoga Park, San Fernando and Encino.

"Each promised to call five others to keep the campaign rolling," she said.

One of the persons called by Mrs. Wasserman was Mrs. Naomi Gruberman, 3828 Woodcliff Road, Sherman Oaks. Mrs. Gruberman said she called 10 persons.

According to stockyard officials, beef prices have climbed skyward because of a current shortage caused by the droughts of 1954, '55 and '56. The dry years forced breeders and growers to cut their herds.

"If that's the case," one aproned campaigner told me last night, "we'll create a dandy surplus for them so they can bring the prices back to our reach again."

Most of the women I contacted did not blame their local butchers. They all seemed to suspect a mysterious "middleman."



A typical boycotter was Mrs. Barbara Crill, 1125 E. Walnut, Glendora.

With a few neighbors, she's been circulating petitions to send Sen. [Thomas] Kuchel, plus urging friends and strangers alike to stay away from beef or any other meat on which prices are raised.

"It's not so much out of anger we're doing it," she told me. "It's out of necessity."

Mrs. Crill, mother of three, said that her budget ordinarily called for a biweekly meat expenditure of between $15-$18 ($109-$131.18 USD 2007). Her decision to desert her butcher came last week, she said, after she figured out she was spending $3-$4 more and actually getting less meat.

"At my market, just last week," she added, "chuck roast went up 8 cents (58 cents), steaks up 20 cents ($1.46), round stake up 10 cents (73 cents) and round bone roast up 8 cents.

"I asked my butcher about it and he said beef prices figured to continue going up about half a cent a day and that if his costs on pork continued to rise, he'd probably have to boost those prices too."

A spokesman for the Meat Purveyors Service Bureau said that so far butchers have reported no noticeable effects from the so-called boycott campaigns.

"I sympathize with the housewives," he said, "but the fact is there is a noticeable shortage of beef, and that's the reason prices are up."

Philip Melnick, secretary-manager of the Southern California Retail Meat Butchers Assn., agreed that no effects from the "boycott" have been reported by butchers.

"The boycott probably wouldn't hurt us anyway," he said. "We're just as angry about the high prices of beef as the housewives.

"In fact, our margins of profit on beef are so low we'd be happy to sell more of other meats."

Melnick predicted beef prices will start down in 30 or 40 days.

Mrs. Crill conceded that her campaign, begun March 10, is just getting off the ground.

"So far we have 100 names on petitions to congressmen," she said.

She said her group--which includes four other Glendora women and one in Van Nuys--was looking ahead to a "boycott week" during which housewives wouldn't buy beef.

"We'll buy fish and poultry for that week," she said. "Maybe that will bring the price of beef to a reasonable level."

But so far, she said, even she herself hasn't boycotted beef altogether.

"I'm still buying the cheaper cuts," she said. "I'm just staying away from the more expensive cuts so far."