March 6, 2019 – Clarence Birdseye

On this day in 1930, the first frozen food was sold in Springfield, Massachusetts! The marketing and mass production of frozen food was the brainchild of a biologist, inventor and entrepreneur named Clarence Birdseye. Recognize that last name from the freezer section at Wegmans? In 1912, he was working as a field biologist for the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Labrador, Canada. While there, the Inuit taught him to ice fish, and he realized that the fish he caught froze almost immediately in the -40 degree weather. And when it thawed, it still tasted fresh. At the time, foods were frozen at higher temperatures, making the freezing occur much more slowly, which destroyed both the flavor and texture. It was so bad, that frozen foods were banned from prisons in New York State as inhumane! So Birdseye came up with new methods for quick-freezing foods, patenting machinery to speed up the freezing process by pressing fish between metal plates that had been chilled to -45 degrees. In 1922, he sold his company and patents for $22 million. He continued to work with the company, developing packaging, freezer cases and transportation methods. Today, the frozen food business in a $240 billion global industry, and it’s all thanks to Clarence Birdseye.

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