Real People, Useful Ideas: BIRDS EYE FROZEN FOOD

Sometimes you come across a name that seems made up. Like Perla Buhay. To me, that’s sounds like a name straight out of a Filipino poem. Perla, Life. Pearl of Life, The Life of a Pearl.  Well, hey, that’s me, wouldjabelieve?

Going back to our general topic, which is food names, let’s consider several unusual monikers and what notable contributions these folks are associated with.  First of four in today’s postings: Clarence Birdseye.

Doesn’t his name remind you of that guy from MASH? Or maybe a character out of a Western movie? On assignment in 1912 in the really cold region of Labrador, Newfoundland, Birdseye made a mental note of a head of cabbage he had tossed into a barrel of water; it had frozen overnight.

When thawed, the vegetable looked as good as new and tasted just as well. The proverbial lightbulb shone bright in his mind: rapid freezing at really low temperatures can retain food freshness!

After completing his Canada assignment from the United States Biological Survey, Birdseye returned to the United States and sought to replicate the quick-freezing method and tried to put fish, meat, fruit, and vegetable in a state of “suspended animation.”  He theorized that as long as food was in a frozen state, it will remain as fresh as the time it was frozen.

He devised a method of freezing and a system of packaging seafood in the fishing state of Massachusetts and started his business in 1923. After many years of experiments, funding arrangements, and alternating successes and failures, Birdseye eventually gave the food industry his precious gift.  No longer tied to the whims of weather or distance from crop production areas, consumers can now buy a wide assortment of food products any time of the year. Complemented by canning and drying, blast freezing has provided people the luxury of obtaining food from near and far at all seasons.


Ownership of the Birds Eye frozen food brand has been transferred to different companies at various times; the international brand is currently owned by Pinnacle Foods in North America and by private equity group Permira in Europe.

Clarence Birdseye’s inventive mind continues to help feed the world.  Frozen food is a wonderful convenience we all benefit from; we must be grateful for an accident of nature which an astute scientific mind did not let go unnoticed.


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