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How Clarence Birdseye Created the Frozen Meals Aisle

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For 1000’s of years, meals storage was one in every of humanity’s greatest issues. Even should you may develop or hunt ample energy when meals was plentiful, it was very tough to retailer these energy for when meals was scarce. 

One artificial an enormous development in our potential to retailer meals, which now permits us to take pleasure in contemporary meals all 12 months spherical.

Be taught extra about Clarence Birdseye, and the invention of frozen meals, on this episode of Every little thing In every single place Day by day.


Means again within the day, meals storage was an enormous drawback. 

Let’s say you and your tribe went hunt and got here again with a extremely massive animal. Principally, you needed to eat the overwhelming majority of it earlier than it spoiled. You might take a few of the meat and dry it, however that was actually the one possibility for storing meals.

Native peoples of North America would usually create a meals known as pemmican, which was dried meat, berries, and fats all combined collectively. It was a high-calorie meals which was nice for if you and your clan would transfer from one place to a different. 

Ultimately, humanity found out extra strategies of meals preservation.

Fermentation turned a preferred possibility everywhere in the world. Korean kimchi, German sauerkraut, and Swedish surströmming, which I did a earlier episode on, are all fermented meals which are nonetheless with us at present.

Salt was used as a preservative as nicely. You might retailer meals in brine, or simply cowl it in salt, which might kill micro organism. 

Later, canning turned an possibility as nicely. You’d principally boil the whole lot to kill the microbes, after which seal the container earlier than it cooled down. 

What most of those strategies had in widespread was that they basically modified the meals. Dried, salted, fermented, or canned meals didn’t style like contemporary meals. The method chemically altered the meals, nonetheless maintaining it edible, however eradicating vitamins and style. 

Going into the twentieth century, this was nonetheless just about the state of issues. 

We had managed to determine learn how to protect ice year-round, and other people started to get iceboxes, however that would solely protect meals briefly. 

Freezing meals wasn’t but a factor. 

Or, I ought to say, releasing meals wasn’t one thing that actually labored. In colder climates, you definitely may freeze meals. Within the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century strategies to freeze water have been developed. 

As early as 1861, Australian inventor Thomas Sutcliffe Mort developed a man-made means of making ice. 

This method was used within the late nineteenth century for delivery meat in bulk lengthy distances. 

However there was an enormous drawback with freezing meals. It could usually flip the meals to mush. 

It is a consequence of the distinctive properties of water and what occurs if you freeze it. Not like most substances, when water freezes, it expands. That is the explanation why potholes can develop in northern latitudes, and it’s why meals that’s improperly frozen can style horrible. 

As meals slowly freezes, the water within the cells kind ice crystals, which bursts the cell partitions. When the meals thaws out, the cell partitions leak, turning the meals mushy. 

Frozen meals was so dangerous at this level that New York State even handed a legislation stopping it from being fed to prisoners. 

For this reason crops like oranges are so susceptible to freezing temperatures which could threaten an orchard. As soon as an orange, or every other plant for that matter, freezes, it could destroy the plant. 

Enter the story, Clarence Birdseye. 

Clarence Birdseye was born in Brooklyn in 1886. He had an curiosity in science and nature all through his life. He attended Amherst Faculty however needed to drop out on account of funds.

He took a number of jobs as a researcher for varied authorities departments and did analysis initiatives doing issues like gathering ticks in Montant to attempt to discover the reason for Rocky Mountain Noticed Fever. 

In 1912 he joined a venture which took him to Labrador in what’s at present Canada. Again then, Newfoundland and Labrador have been really separate nations. 

In Labrador, he met many Inuit individuals who taught him the secrets and techniques to fishing within the winter. One of many issues which they did is take the fish they caught and instantly throw them onto the ice the place they’d shortly freeze in temperatures which might dip right down to -40, which is the very same temperate in each Fahrenheit and Celsius by the way in which. 

Clarence shortly realized one thing fascinating in regards to the fish. After he thawed it out, it tasted contemporary. 

It was much better than the frozen fish he had tasted again in New York. 

The distinction was the temperature at which he froze the fish, which was far colder than what most meals have been usually frozen at. 

He realized that he had one thing right here that individuals would pay for and was superior to anything at the moment being executed.

A number of years later he returned again to the USA and commenced experimenting with the method of flash freezing, making an attempt to artificially replicate the circumstances he present in Labrador within the winter.

In 1922, he started conducting experiments on the flash freezing of fish. 

This finally led to the creation of the Birdseye Seafoods firm which started freezing fish fillets in chilled air at -45 Fahrenheit. 

This primary firm finally went bankrupt, as there wasn’t buyer demand for his meals. Furthermore, he realized that merely freezing the meals wasn’t sufficient. He wanted to develop a whole infrastructure round frozen meals. 

He additionally stored tinkering with the flash freezing expertise. He developed the double belt freezer, which was two extraordinarily chilly plates that may flash freeze packages of fish and greens shortly. That is thought-about the start of the frozen meals business. 

In 1929, he bought his firm and all its patents to what would change into Basic Meals. They finally launched a whole line of frozen meals merchandise known as Birds Eye, named after Clarance Birdseye.

Flash freezing was solely step one, nonetheless. As soon as it was frozen, you needed to get the meals to the shopper. That required a whole provide chain that would deal with frozen meals.

In 1930, the primary frozen meals sections have been locations in shops round Springfield, Massachusetts. The preliminary choices included a collection of fish, meat, berries, spinach, fruit, and oyster.

The brand new frozen meals have been successful was with customers because it tasted higher than canned meals.

A wholly new business developed for the transportation, storage, and sale of frozen meals. 

Clarence Birdseye finally developed freezers for trains, vans, and retail shops. 

In WWII, frozen meals turned much more fashionable because the US authorities discouraged folks from buying canned meals. Canned meals got precedence for troops combating abroad as a result of they could possibly be transported with out freezing. Frozen meals have been reserved for folks on the homefront. 

After WWII, when troopers returned dwelling, Individuals stored shopping for frozen meals. Instantly after the struggle in 1945 and 46, Individuals consumed 800 million kilos of frozen meals. 

1954 noticed the creation of each the TV dinner and the fish stick, which solely cemented the recognition of frozen meals. The creation of the TV dinner will warrant its personal episode sooner or later as a result of that may be a fascinating story. 

Clarence Birdseye handed away in 1956 on the age of 69. He left a legacy that may be seen anytime you stroll right into a grocery retailer.

The frozen meals part is now one of many largest sections in most shops. Every little thing from concentrated fruit juice to frozen pizzas, to field meals, to frozen greens might be discovered within the frozen meals part. One of many advantages of frozen meals is that they require no components or preservatives and might usually be frozen simply hours after being harvested. 

By the 12 months 2026, the frozen meals business, in simply the USA alone, can be estimated to be over $366 billion {dollars}. 

So the following time you set foot in a grocery retailer and stroll previous the frozen meals part, give a second to thank the person who got here up with the concept by ice fishing with Inuits in Labrador. 

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