Transporting food through a cold chain isn’t new:
While global commodity chains are fairly modern expansions in the transportation industry, the refrigerated movement of temperature sensitive goods is a practice that dates back to 1797 when British fishermen used natural ice to preserve their fish stock piles while at sea. This process was also seen in the late 1800s for the movement of food from rural areas to urban consumption markets, namely dairy products. Cold storage was also a key component of food trade between colonial powers and their colonies. For example, in the late 1870s and early 1880s, France was starting to receive large shipments of frozen meat and mutton carcasses from South America, while Great Britain imported frozen beef from Australia and pork and other meat from New Zealand. This process was incited by a shortage of meat production in Europe and substantial surpluses in developing countries. By 1910, 600,000 tons of frozen meat was being brought into Great Britain alone. The first reefer ship for the banana trade was introduced in 1903 by the United Food Company. This enabled the banana to move from an exotic fruit that had a small market because it arrived in markets too ripe, to one of the world’s most consumed fruit. Its impacts on the reefer industry were those monumental.
The most common temperature standards for modern “reefers” are:
- “banana” (13 °C)
- “chill” (2 °C)
- “frozen” (-18 °C)
- “deep frozen” (-29 °C)