Frozen products

Copied from the Eskimos, he said himself

Clarence Birdseye (Brooklyn, New York, December 9, 1886 – New York, October 7, 1956)

Clarence Birdseye, the American inventor who devised that you could freeze meat, fish and vegetables in such a way that they remained tasty, was not easy to catch. If you click on the internet bookstore Amazon, you will still find a book about growing forest plants in your garden.

He wrote it together with his wife.

It gives an overview of two hundred wild plants that you can easily bring to bloom with Birdseye's book.

As a twelve-year-old boy in Brooklyn, New York, he placed small advertisements in the newspaper offering to put animals on, or even better: to teach the customer how to do it yourself.

Birdseye loved nature, that much is certain. Although he barely had the money, he studied biology at university.

To earn extra money, he specialized in catching frogs for the Bronx zoo or rats for a biology professor at another university.

Financially, however, he could not sustain it and he took a job as a field worker for an American biological research in the western part of the States.

There he got the chance to trade in furs and so he ended up in 1912 on the Canadian peninsula of Labrador where he would be active in the fur trade for five years.

In Canada in those years he noticed something very strange. Ducks, caribou and fish frozen in the depths of winter retained their flavor much better than animals frozen in the fall or spring.

Birdseye recognized that the speed of freezing played a role. The scientific explanation for this is that during slow freezing, large crystals form that press on the surrounding cells of the tissue.

When thawed, they tear apart the surrounding, softening cells, so that the juices with their flavorings flow out. Rapid freezing only produces small crystals.

After his work in Labrador he returned to New York and he developed a machine that could freeze all kinds of food in a short time with two metal plates, the Quick Freeze Machine. In 1924 he founded a company that traded frozen fish and rabbit meat. But the machines were expensive, retailers did not want to invest in large freezers and consumers were suspicious. In 1929 he sold everything for the fabulous sum of 22 million dollars.

He immediately started a whole series of inventions.

He developed a heat lamp and set up a small business for it; he came up with a method to extract water from food, to make paper with the remains of sugar cane, or a special kind of harpoon not to kill whales, but to mark them and thus make them traceable and recognizable.

On March 6, 1930, in Springfield, Massachusetts, his frozen foods were first offered for retail sale. Birdseye had sold his company, so he no longer earned any money from it.

Or at least he did: he quickly designed freezer counters, displays, in which the frozen products could be clearly seen. You could rent them for eight dollars a month.

He devised special lamps for those counters and manufactured it all in his Birdseye Electric Company, a business that was more profitable than that of the frozen foods business.

Thus, Birdseye continued throughout his life until his death in 1956 at the age of seventy. At the time, he had nearly three hundred patents to his name.

All his life he denied that he had invented deep freezing. 'Those were the Eskimos,' he said, 'I copied that from them.'

He had only imitated nature in his factory. “I don't consider myself a remarkable man. I'm just a guy with a huge curiosity and an instinct to risk something,' he said of himself.

That was undoubtedly a good summary of his talent.

The frozen brand Birds Eye still exists. The singing Captain Birds Eye, a sailor with a white beard who, among other things, sells fish sticks, was given the name 'Captain Iglo' in Europe.

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