Clarence Birdseye invents the fast freezing food process.
A long time ago, lived a man named Clarence Birdseye.
Born in Brooklyn in 1886, he went to school in New Jersey and briefly attended college in Massachusetts before dropping out to join the US Agricultural department as an ‘assistant naturalist’.
He was a naturally curious fellow, and when faced with nature that he hadn’t encountered before, often his first thoughts were, “what does it taste like” and “how do I cook it?”
But it was when he was sent to Labrador in Newfoundland, almost exactly 100 years ago, that he was to conceive of an idea that would revolutionise food production, packaging and distribution for the next century.
In fact, it would change the world.
While out on the snow, he was shown how to survive in the harsh conditions by the local Inuits.
In -40ºC weather, Birdseye learnt how to fish under very thick ice but what really intrigued him was what happened to the fish after they were caught.
THE SCIENCE BIT
Clarence observed that once the fish were brought out of the water and placed on the ice, the combination of the temperature and exposure to the elements froze the fish almost instantly.
The significance of this made itself apparent later when they came to eat the frozen fish.
To his amazement, once thawed, they were as firm and fresh as if they had just been caught.
But this wasn’t the first time that food had been frozen, so what was the difference?
What made the Inuit’s method so much more effective?
So much fresher and tastier?
It was the speed of the freeze.
Food had been frozen before, but because it took hours rather than minutes, ice crystals would have time to form, expanding and breaking the cell walls of the food being frozen, affecting the taste and leaving it unattractive and unappetising once thawed.
CLARENCE AND HIS FANTASTIC FROZEN FOOD MACHINE
The Inuit's had been taking advantage of nature’s ability to ‘flash freeze’ their catch, which meant near-perfect preservation of the food.
That’s when a big light bulb flashed on in Clarence Birdseye’s brain.
He returned to New York and set about inventing and patenting his ‘Quick Freeze Machine’, which would replicate the fast freezing process he had witnessed out in Newfoundland.
Step-by-step, he invented the processes that would one day become standard practice across the world.
It was Clarence’s marvelous mind that pondered over packaging, innovated with ink, considered chemicals and battled with batch sizes in order to perfect the process.
He then went to work creating the business that we would eventually come to know and love as Birds Eye.