March, 1943 — Black market profiteering…Where’s the beef?

Left: Burt Thomas, Detroit News; Right: Herblock, Lynchburg News

With rationing in full effect, it was inevitable that black markets would spring up across the country.  The practice was publicly criticized as unfair and unpatriotic, but secretly condoned and widely practiced by people who felt their situation was somehow unique and justified.  For the most part, black marketeers dealt in clothing and liquor in Britain, and meat, sugar and gasoline in the United States.
There were two forms of black market transactions—selling rationed items to people without ration coupons, and selling items at more than the ceiling price set by the Office of Price Administration (OPA).  It is estimated that as much as 25% of the supply of some rationed goods was sold through the black market.
The meat industry was accused of forcing the OPA to raise ceiling prices by keeping millions of pounds of frozen meat in storage rather than releasing it to the consumer.  Ranchers and cattle feeders were similarly accused of selling their animals through black market channels for higher prices than they would bring at the OPA-controlled slaughterhouse.

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