The aim of this paper is to reconstruct the rise of the salting meat plants (saladeros) along the Río de la Plata between the 1780s and 1850s as an expression of the region’s deeper integration into the wider capitalist market through the creation and tentative management of a new commodity chain. The saladeros were one result of private and public attempts to extend the commodity form, and contributed to processes of local economic and social change. The saladero was the locus in which the natural product of the Argentine Pampas (the wild and tame cattle, and to a lesser extent horses and sheep) was processed into a series of commodities that were traded in the globl capitalist market. These commodities sustained the deeper integration of different capitalist societies in the Atlantic basin. The processed commodities were salted and jerked meat, as well as hides, tallow and sebum. A particular focus is placed on the political support to the industry, in order to highlight the continuities between the colonial and postcolonial period in respect to state promotion of commodity production.
The first section describes the context of the eighteenth-century Bourbon reforms, a series of administrative and economic innovations that imperial authorities envisioned to better exploit the economic potential of their empire. The second discusses the appearance of the saladeros on the Río de la Plata (1780s-1800s); while the third is focused on the development of the industry after independence from Spain (1810s-1850s). The final section is devoted to the description of two main fainla segments of the saladeros commodity chain – Britain and Cuba.