Clarence Birsdeye is known as the “father of frozen food” for having created a quick freezing process that better preserved flavor. Born in Brooklyn, New York in 1886, Birdseye never graduated college – funds were tight when he finished his sophomore year at Amherst College in 1910, and he dropped out to earn a living. He had been a biology major – he was nicknamed “Bugs” by his friends since he loved science -- so he managed to get a job as a naturalist for the U.S. government. In 1941, he was awarded an honorary Masters of Arts degree from Amherst.
He was posted to Labrador where he learned an interesting fact from watching the Native Americans there: fish frozen quickly in the extreme temperatures of the Arctic kept its texture and taste much better than food frozen slowly. Birdseye realized that if the freezing process was quick enough, ice crystals wouldn’t form in the cells of the fish and destroy them.
Once home in the U.S., Birdseye experimented with quick freezing of everything from cabbage to rabbit meat using an electric fan, buckets of brine, and cakes of ice. He also figured out how to package the food into waxed cardboard boxes so they could be easily sold. Birds Eye frozen foods made their public debut in 1930 in 18 stores in Springfield, MA, but it wasn’t until 1934 that they were distributed all around the U.S. – as they still are today.
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