Frozen foods have revolutionized the way people eat, allowing for safe and healthy storage. 

Photograph by Emory Kristof, National Geographic
  • On December 9, 1886, American inventor Clarence Frank Birdseye II was born in New York City. Birdseye is most known for inventing the flash freezing process, patented in 1925, and lending his name to a line of frozen meals.

    Freezing methods of the time resulted in the formation of large ice crystals, which caused food to break down when thawed—making it too mushy or dry. Birdseye was a naturalist who worked with the USDA in the Canadian Arctic, and studied the way Inuit natives froze fish very quickly at very low temperatures. When thawed, the fish tasted fresh.

    Birdseye's invention marked the beginning of the frozen food industry. Without flash freezing, perishable food like fish or vegetables needed to be eaten before they spoiled, which might only be a few days. Food that was made or caught far away was either expensive or unavailable. With flash freezing, food could be shipped on refrigerated trucks or railroad cars across the country. People could also buy frozen food and keep it for a long time in their freezer. Distance and season were no longer a barriers to enjoying foods.

  • Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry
    Arctic Noun

    region at Earth's extreme north, encompassed by the Arctic Circle.

    Encyclopedic Entry: Arctic
    ice Noun

    water in its solid form.

    Encyclopedic Entry: ice
    industry Noun

    activity that produces goods and services.

    Inuit Noun

    people and culture native to the Arctic region of Canada, Greenland, and the U.S. state of Alaska.

    naturalist Noun

    person who studies the natural history or natural development of organisms and the environment.

    season Noun

    period of the year distinguished by special climatic conditions.

    Encyclopedic Entry: season
    USDA Noun

    (United States Department of Agriculture) source of information, research, regulation, and funding for farmers, businesses, and people interested in the U.S. food supply.