Through My Thoughts
The Taster Magazine Daily Update: The Real Captain Birdseye
Writing out some food ideas for hake (fish fingers, mmm) we happened upon the tale of Captain Birdseye. We’d assumed the Bird’s Eye was something to do with seagulls, given they are notoriously good at spotting fish. But no, the old Cap’n was a real person: resourceful, entrepreneurial and scientifically inventive.
In 1912, the US Biological Survey (now the US Fish & Wildlife Service) posted one of its biologists, Clarence Robert Birdseye, to the chilly outpost of Labrador. There, he observed the Inuits freezing fish in winter. He also noted how good it tasted when defrosted. In 1922, he formed Birdseye Seafood Inc, which offered chilled fish to the public. Sadly, this went bankrupt.
Two years and a lot of experimentation later, Birdseye founded the General Seafoods Corporation in Massachussets. The focus was on fully-frozen, rather than chilled, fish; and this time luck was on his side. The company was not only a huge success. A scant few months before the 1929 Wall Street Crash, Birdseye sold the company out for $22 million to Goldman Sachs and the Postum Cereal Company. (For timely selling, this must surely rank up there with Jon Hunt selling Foxtons for £375 million just before the 2008 property crash). Birdseye died in 1956, aged 70 and the proud owner of nearly 300 patents. He is generally regarded as the founder of today’s frozen foods industry.
Many thanks to Oxford University Press for furnishing us with the facts. For the full story of the Real Captain Birdseye, and many other fascinating tales and accounts besides, do take a look at their excellent Companion to Food.
Still adding funny vids to our YouTube channel. Here’s today’s (and how true it is, how true!):
Have a great Tuesday,
Real Captain Birdseye