Gustavus Swift is credited with the development of the first refrigerator train car, though the invention was actually created by an engineer employed underneath him. This invention made the meat industry into Chicago's premiere industry, creating a distribution network of packed edible meat from Chicago to the eastern United States.
Prior to the invention of the refrigerator car, cattle had to be shipped alive from Chicago to be slaughtered at slaughterhouses around the country. However, the long transport damaged the animals, which lowered their edibility and value. In fact, only 40 percent of the cattle were considered edible by the end of these long journeys.