About Clarence Frank Birdseye, II
Clarence Frank Birdseye II (December 9, 1886 – October 7, 1956) was an American inventor who is considered the founder of the modern method of freezing food. In 2005, he was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame.
Early work In 1910 and 1911, he captured several hundred small mammals and isolated several thousand ticks for research into the cause of Rocky Mountain spotted fever. His next field assignment, off and on from 1912 to 1915, was in Labrador, Canada, where he became further interested in food preservation by freezing, especially fast freezing. He was taught by the Inuit how to ice fish under very thick ice. In -40°C weather, he discovered that the fish he caught froze almost instantly, and when thawed, tasted fresh. He recognized immediately that the frozen seafood sold in New York was of lower quality than the frozen fish of Labrador, and saw that applying this knowledge would be lucrative. His journals from this period, which record these observations, are held in the Archives and Special Collections at Amherst College.
Conventional freezing methods of the time were commonly done at higher temperatures, and thus the freezing occurred much more slowly, giving ice crystals more time to grow. It is now known that fast freezing produces smaller ice crystals, which cause less damage to the tissue structure. When 'slow' frozen foods thaw, cellular fluids leak from the ice crystal-damaged tissue, giving the resulting food a mushy or dry consistency upon preparation.
In 1922, Birdseye conducted fish-freezing experiments at the Clothel Refrigerating Company, then established his own company, Birdseye Seafoods Inc., to freeze fish fillets via chilled air at -45°F (-43°C). In 1924 his company went bankrupt due to lack of consumer interest in the product. That same year he developed an entirely new process for commercially viable quick-freezing: pack fish in cartons, then freeze the contents between two refrigerated surfaces under pressure. Birdseye created a new company, General Seafood Corporation, to promote this method.
Industrial development In 1925 his General Seafood Corporation moved to Gloucester, Massachusetts. There it employed Birdseye's newest invention, the double belt freezer, in which cold brine chilled a pair of stainless steel belts carrying packaged fish, freezing the fish quickly. His invention was subsequently issued as US Patent #1,773,079, marking the beginning of today's frozen foods industry. Birdseye then took out patents on machinery which cooled more quickly so that only small ice crystals can form and cell walls are not damaged. In 1927 he began to extend the process to quick-freezing of meat, poultry, fruit, and vegetables.
In 1929, Birdseye sold his company and patents for $22 million to Goldman Sachs and the Postum Company, which eventually became General Foods Corporation, and which founded the Birds Eye Frozen Food Company. Birdseye continued to work with the company, developing frozen food technology. In 1930 the company began sales experiments in 18 retail stores around Springfield, Massachusetts, to test consumer acceptance of quick-frozen foods. The initial product line featured 26 items, including 18 cuts of frozen meat, spinach and peas, a variety of fruits and berries, blue point oysters, and fish fillets. Consumer acceptance was strong, and today this experiment is considered the birth of retail frozen foods. The "Birds Eye" name remains a leading frozen-food brand.
Death He died on October 7, 1956, of a heart attack at the Gramercy Park Hotel. He was 69 years old.