The advent of refrigerated transport made fresh beef a global commodity, linking South American and Australian producers to hungry consumers in Europe and North America. With vast supplies of cattle, and growing markets in Japan, Russia, and beyond, China was the last great frontier of this global transformation. Rather than a single export trade, China’s beef industry was a complex and multidirectional network of producers, processors, and consumers, its many production chains each facing distinct commercial, logistic, and political challenges. This article examines three such chains, the Qing-era caravan trade that drove live sheep and cattle to Beijing, the Harbin meat-packing industry that grew up around the Russian China Eastern Railway, and Japanese-dominated export of beef from Qingdao. A cross-section of these issues shows how the industry as a whole adapted to the new pressures and opportunities of globalization, as well as those presented by technology, foreign investment, imperialism, and war.