Clarence Birdseye's inventions and innovations changed the way Americans and people all over the world eat. Birdseye was majoring in biology at Amherst College, when he dropped out of school and went to work as a naturalist for the United States government. One of his first assignments was at a post in the Arctic. While observing fishermen in the Arctic, Birdseye was intrigued by the fact that as soon as a fish was taken out of the cold water, it immediately froze in the even colder air. Then the fishermen would thaw the fish later, when they were ready to prepare and consume them. At that time, the fact that the fish retained their flavor and became nonperishable when frozen was a new concept, for people living outside the Arctic.
Birdseye continued working for the government from 1917 to 1925. While he was working he was also experimenting with ways to freeze and store various types of food. He experimented enough to learn that the food, if frozen when fresh would retain its flavor and be free of bacteria and safe to consume. He kept working, trying to find a way to freeze the food, so that when it was thawed, the food retained the same texture and structure as it had when it was fresh.
After two years of experiments and trials Birdseye discovered that if he packed the food in a carton and then froze it, carton and all, between two, flat, refrigerated plates, the food not only froze well, put also when thawed it retained its original texture, structure and taste. Birdseye obtained United State Patent 1,773,079 in 1924 for his quick-freeze or flash-freeze method of preserving food and the machinery he had built to accomplish the freezing.
Originally Birdseye used his new flash-freeze technology to open a seafood company. He then sold that company, General Seafoods Corporation, to a new company called General Foods. Birdseye continues working and researching new methods for freezing, storing and shipping foods. When Birdseye died in 1956, he had invented more than 300 items and processes, most of them related to food.