Food - Drink
How Fish Changed The Frozen Food Industry Forever
Many might take for granted that several grocery store aisles are filled with food that has been picked, caught, prepared, frozen, and packaged. This influential industry, and the flash freezing process itself, can be traced back to one man's fateful trip to the Arctic and the method of food preservation he observed there.
In the early 1900s, Clarence Birdseye, a biologist who quit college and began working as a naturalist for the U.S. government, was posted to the Arctic region of northern Canada. There, he observed how the native Inuit people used the ice, wind, and temperature available to them to freeze and preserve freshly caught fish.
Birdseye’s trip to the Arctic helped him develop a new way of freezing food on a commercial scale: flash-freezing. He developed two methods, one of which involved freezing pre-packaged goods under intense pressure between two metal plates that had been chilled to minus 25 degrees Fahrenheit through the evaporation of ammonia.
Birdseye's innovations, including refrigerated trucks and freezers in grocery stores, helped make frozen foods a staple by the 1950s during a canned goods shortage. According to the American Frozen Food Institute, the frozen food industry employs over 67,000 workers in the U.S. alone and represents a $65 billion market.