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British Food Journal Volume 30 Issue 4 1928

British Food Journal

ISSN: 0007-070X

Article publication date: 1 April 1928


France is honouring this year the birthday centenary of a man who conferred a benefaction upon the whole world yet died without distinction and in comparative poverty, if not obscurity. When in the early ’fifties of last century governments in Europe were becoming gravely concerned over the rapidly diminishing margin between food demands and supplies, it was Charles Tellier who came to their rescue. Tellier, who was born at Auteuil, Paris, in 1828, had been trained as a civil engineer, but he combined with the practical mind of the craftsman the analytical capacity of the scientist, and was early attracted by the problems associated with the chemical production of cold. The spectacle presented by a vast continent like Europe faced by the prospect of imminent food famine, while countries like Australia, New Zealand and America, particularly the Argentine, had far greater supplies than they knew what to do with stirred his imagination. Inventive genius in all parts of the world had been stimulated by the promise of a rich reward to the inventor of a practical method of preserving not only meat, but other perishable foodstuffs. The Government of the Argentine held out $8,000 as a bait to the ingenious. In Australia, where the tinning of meat was first exploited, new experiments along the same lines were tried. In England, where a Committee of the Society of Arts had been appointed “to consider practical steps in the direction of providing a more ample food supply,” officials were kept busy testing the inventions submitted for their consideration. One suggestion took the shape of the manufacture of what was described as the “Flour of Meat”; another inventor, borrowing his idea from the method of curing English hams, submitted a device for the production of “Australian Mutton Hams,” and still another ingenious person discovered a process for drying meat with sulphur dioxide. Tellier first experimented with air‐tight chambers. But the presence of the elements of decay in the meat itself defeated his designs. Pasteur's pronouncements on the subject of the preexistent presence of organic germs, at once authoritative and decisive, had the effect of diverting his attention to the refrigerator, and by repeated investigations he found that not only flowers but all kinds of perishable goods could be preserved for long periods on being frozen. It was in “The Engine Carre,” an ammonia compression machine, produced by the French engineer Carre, with whom he is said to have been in some way associated, that Tellier found perhaps the most important factor in facilitating the solution of his problem. This engine was completed about 1860. Eight years later Tellier made his first experiment in the shipment of meat under refrigeration. An ammonia compression machine was installed in a vessel, the “City of Rio de Janeiro,” which shipped three hundred kilos of beef from London for Monte Video. The intention was to place a cargo of meat on board at Uruguay for shipment on the homeward journey to France. But twenty‐three days out from London an accident which could not be repaired occurred to the refrigerating apparatus and the meat had to be eaten on board. So it came about that the United States were able to anticipate Tellier in the actual inauguration of a meat trade between the new and the old worlds dependent upon artificially cooled storage during transport. A shipment of chilled beef was made from the United States to this country in 1874.


(1928), "British Food Journal Volume 30 Issue 4 1928", British Food Journal, Vol. 30 No. 4, pp. 31-40.




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