THE NEW SYSTEM OF PRESERVING FOOD.
AN EXTRAORDINARY DISCOVERY.
[‘Age’s’ London Correspondent.]
There is a hitch over the formation of the great Imperial Produce Company, which is to double at one bound the frozen meat export from New Zealand, and to enable the inhabitants of Lancashire and the west of Scotland to revel in unwonted supplies of cheap mutton. There is a chance for Messrs Nelson even yet, the Messrs MTver, of Liverpool, having of late demanded terms in regard to the shipping management with which the other promoters are not disposed to comply. Acting on the analogy of the Orient they want to bind the company to retain them as agents for ten years, whilst, as I understand, they demand for themselves the option of terminating the agreement at any time on giving three months’ notice. This is rather strong, but at present, I understand, there is no sign of theirgiving way, whilst the promoters too are obstinate. Matters are therefore decidedly at a deadlock. This is all the more to be regretted, as I learn that the company has been promised very influential support in Glasgow. Whilst the company referred to la scheming for an enormous increase in the frozen meat trade, another company is
coining on the scene, which promises to do away with the freezing process altogether. They call themselves the Pood Preservation Company, and on Tuesday last entertained a party of gentlemen to luncheon at the Hotel Continental, in Regent street, with a view of giving ocular proof of the excellence of their method, and of the edible and wholesome character of the viands preserved by them. The menu was a most rechercM one, and, though the items of the bill of fare had all been preserved for weeks, their freshness was untainted.
Towards the end of the lunch Mr Hodge. M.P., rose to explain his presence there, He said that in December he was out shoot ing on hia estate, and that among other things he bagged a couple of pheasants. His brother, who was with him, had just come from London, where he had heard or seen something of a wonderful invention by which food was preserved in a few hours, and would last ever so long without any care. Ho and others ridiculed the idea, and the brother said: “ Well, let me have those two pheasants, and I’ll show you I’m not joking.” It was done; the pheasants were taken up to London and submitted to the process for three hours. They were then taken away, and had remained in Mr Hodge’s possession ever since—now three months. “Three days ago,” he said, “I ate one of the birds for dinner, and it was iu absolutely perfect condition, I have brought here the second bird that you may examine it for yourselves, and see whether it is not quite fresh and moist. And I give you my word that this bird was shot in the middle of December, and that except the few hours it was in London undergoing the process it has never been out of my possession.” The bird was subsequently handed round, feathers and all, and I can certainly affirm that it seemed to have been shot but a few days. Mr Hodge corroborated his brother’s story, and the other speaking went on. Mr Wheaton, one of those interested in the English syndicate which holds tho patent, gave in a few words the history of the invention, HOW II WAS DISCOVERED. The process was invented by an American chemist by the name of Daniells, who had been at work upon it for fourteen years, and had at last brought his experiments to a successful close. There was no secret about the matter, said Mr Wheaton, who is an American himself. The process consists in subjecting the meat to the fumes of a powder burnt in an airtight chamber, and that is all. The powder is composed of many constituents, some of which aie sugar, cinnamon, sassafras, nitrate of potassium, soda, and sulphur. The inventor sold the patent rights to an American syndicate after the latter had made a careful examination of the whole matter. “We were resolved,” said Mr Wheaton, “ that there should be none of the Electric sugar fraud about this, and so we tested it thoroughly before buying. At first I was as sceptical as any of you were when you sat down to this table, but I was forced to believe, and I have taken up the patent.” He came over with Mr Bowden, another American, to England, in December, for the purpose of introducing the patent here, and Mr Gardner and others had taken it up, after severe testa of three months. Later the powder, which was on the table, was handed round for examination. It smelt and tasted like cinnamon, but when I put some on a card and set fire to it, it was evident that sulphur was a large constituent in it. There were other speeches. Major Fisher, for example, who told us he had taken part in the New Zealand Waikato wars, said that be regretted tho process had not been invented twenty years before, so that he might have avoided being half starved during the campaign in the Waikato.
sir Charles Clifford’s opinions. Sir Charles Clifford, as is well known, is an old New Zealand colonist and a director of the shipping company which is most intimately connected with the frozen meat trade. He came in late to the lunch, but tasted several of the dishes, and was in the middle of one when he was called upon to express his views. The best test of the excellence of the food is the fact that he refused to speak till he had finished his dish. Then he said that he considered this process extremely marvellous, and that he could only say that it seemed destined to revolutionise the whole of the meat trade. Subsequently I spoke to him on the matter, and asked him if he were not despondent over the invention, seeing that it was going to destroy the frozen meat trade. “ Well,” was his own answer, “I should bo so if it were not for the fact that my interest in New Zealand sheep is far greater than my interest in the shipping trade. I have 100,000 sheep in New' Zealand, and if I can get higher prices for them (as the patentees of this process assert I can under their system) I shall be highly delighted, despite the blow it gives to the frozen meat companies.” I remarked to him that of course we only had the word of the promoters that the dishes we had eaten were as old as they were said to be ; to which he said : “ Yei, that is so ; but I happen to know some of the people concerned in it, and I can fully trust them ; and I have no reason to doubt that all they say is true. I consider that I am now sitting at what will one day be looked upon as an historic board, so promising is this strange invention.” A VISIT TO THE “ WORKS’’—THE PROCESS SEEN. At the invitation of Mr Cordner I went down yesterday to Queen. Victoria street, where the “works” are. I call them works, but in reality there is nothing but a box and a plate of powder, so simple is the contrivance. Mr Wheaton and Mr Bowden, with young Mr Hodge, went over everything with me, and I will give a brief summary of the whole process. In the room was a box of about 6ft by Bft, which when I saw it was empty. In the top compartment, which is only partially separated from the lower, are two small zinc tanks, which are filled with ice or cold water. About on a level with the tanks is a little shelf, in which the plate of powder is put. The whole of the lower portion of the box is filled with meat to be put through the process. The box is air tight, or nearly so, the plate of powder is ignited with a match, and the door is closed. The fumes of the vapor rise quickly over the tanks, when they are cooled down to a sufficiently low temperature, and thence descend to the meat and attach it. Inthree hours the whole of the meat is rendered incapable of decay. If the process of putrefaction had already set in, it is asserted, the vapor will not allow it to proceed any further. The meat may then be taken out, and thrown aside, left anywhere in any temperature, and for any length of time, and it remaining good. I viewed at the office hams and carcasses which were from three weeks to three months old, and they were all fresh and juicy in appearance. Furthermore, the process is applied not only to meat, but to vegetables (as we found at the lunch), to fruit and to flowers. Maidenhair sprays have been preserved after subjection to the vapor for two weeks, while, as everyone knows, ordinarily they will wither in a day. I saw oranges three months old, which had been cut open weeks ago, and were still as juicy and sweet as when they were first picked. Pines and grapes were the same. In fine, there seems no end to the applications and uses of this extending elixir vitce. Hides I saw which were eight weeks old, and were as soft as the day they were pulled off the backs of the bullocks. In a couple of days, as everyone knows, a hide will kill at twenty yards.
IS IT TRUE ? CAN THE STATEMENTS BE BELIEVED ?
I have given Sir Charles Clifford’s evi dence as to the credibility of the people concerned ; but, of course, it is open to anyone, especially if he has not seen the process, to remain sceptical and say “ I don’t doubt that what you see and ate was fresh and nice, but what guarantee have we that it has been proved as they say ?” The answer to this is a practical one. Mr Gardner tells me that he disbelieved when the American patentees came to him, and that he put them to all sorts of severe tests, I saw in the office the marks of his seals, when he had submitted meats and birds to the process and then sealed them up so that they were unable to be got at. Evidently Mr Hodge’s experience was that the pheasants he had treated only left him for a day, and yet were good after three months. But if anyone doubts it is open to him in London, here, to go down to the office and to submit some bird, rabbit, anything, to the process for a few hours—to stand by while it is submitted, thence to bear it off again to his
house, and there to make a practical test of ths truth ot the assertions by keeping it for six weeks or two months in any circumstances he chooses,
There are just two other points in connection with the process which I should wish to draw attention to. One is that the meat will keep after being cooled, just as before cooking. How long the nitre of the vapor lasts is a moot point. It has been shown to last over three months, and Mr Wharton informed me that experiment in America has proved it to last over eight months. It has been suggested that the process is much the same as that employed in ancient times by the Egyptians in embalming their dead, lor it is proved that if the preserved meat is kept for a long time (many months) it has a tendency to get dry, and this would reduce it to the condition of a mummy in time. The second fact is this : that water placed in the chamber while the powder is burning gets impregnated with the vapor, and acquires the virtue of preserving the meat thrown into it. Fish have been kept fresh by being thrown into this water for a whole fortnight.
THE ADVANTAGES TO THE COLONIES. Now comes the important question as to how this invention, being all that is claimed for it, will affect the colonies. I think there can hardly be two opinions on the subject. Let me put the facts in a nutshell. At present the growers of sheep in Australia and New Zealand are paid 2£d a pound for their mutton; a similar sum is absorbed in the process of freezing and transport in refrigerating chambers to England; and 5d is the sum the mutton brings in the English market. That is to say, a sum of 10s 5d per sheep of 501b is absorbed in expenses between the grower and the English market. Now, the bulk of this goes in the freezing expenses—that is, expenses of freezing in factories, expenses of transmission to steamer, expenses of refrigerating on land, expenses of refrigerating in depots, etc. As a matter of fact, if sheep could be sent as ordinary cargo the expenses would not be more than Jd per lb for freight. I will not, however, put the freight as low as that, but estimate £d as the sum per lb charged by ships from the Antipodes to England. That would be about L 5 per ton, or 2s per sheep of 501b. Now, the quantity of meat which I find on inquiry and experiment could be put into this small box was, roughly speaking, between 200 and 3001b, that is, between four and six sheep of 501b. The amount of powder required to preserve these in three or four hours is 'Jib, and the cost of the powder is 9d per lb. Let us say, therefore, that 7d would be the cost of preserving the five sheep, or simply lsd per sheep. So that the cost of preservation, or export to England under the new system, would bo 2s l£d for a sheep of 50lb, whereas now, under the freezing system, it is 10s sd. Surely this deserves the attention of every runholder in Australia and New Zealand. If the price of mutton were maintained at 5d here, it would cause a net increase of 8s 3Jd per carcass for the grower. But, of course, the price would fall, and the English public and the grower split the advantage between them. NO SCIENTIFIC EXPERIMENTS AVAILABLE. Tho powder has been submitted to various great scientific authorities, and they can find no explanation for the chemical process, which must go on under the influence of the vapors. Professors Atfield, Japp, Redwood, and Tidey, the Government analyst, have each and all expressed themselves unable to trace the damps which must take place in the carcasses. Doubtless we shall know more of it ere long, but the invention is so recent that the authorities have not had sufficient time to experiment. WIIAT THE PATENTEES WISH TO DO. The patentees are in the hands of Mr Gardner, of Russell, Gardner, and Co., 38 Nicholas lane, E.C., and wish to dispose of the patent rights in New Zealand and Australia. They invite inspection and any test that may be desired, and will be glad to hear irom any firm or syndicate who think of purchasing the patent rights. The apparatus is so simple that it could be used in a home. All that is necessary is a fairly air-tight box, a room, and a few pounds of the powder. No doubt it would become an institution in lieu of a cool chamber for game. Mr Hodges tells me that they have already all the patent rights for the county of Lancashire only for LI 50,000. Messrs Nelson and Tyser have visited the offices and “ works,” and have gone away pondering much and unable to understand ; for, without doubt, the invention is bound to revolutionise the colonial meat trade if nothing else.
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THE NEW SYSTEM OF PRESERVING FOOD., Evening Star, Issue 7907, 15 May 1889
THE NEW SYSTEM OF PRESERVING FOOD. Evening Star, Issue 7907, 15 May 1889
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