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Thumbnail of Gail Borden (source)
Gail Borden
(9 Nov 1801 - 11 Jan 1874)

American manufacturer, inventor and food scientist who invented a commercial method of condensing milk to preserve it.

Borden's Meat Biscuit

Articles from: Scientific American (1850)

The Scientific American periodical was published in New York.

6 Feb 1850


For the week ending February 9, 1830.

To Gail Borden, Jr., of Galveston, Texas, for preparation of portable Soup Bread.

I do not claim the extract of flesh made into what is known as portable soup; but I claim the new and useful manufacture of desiccated soup-bread, formed of the concentrated extract of alimentary animal substances, combined with vegetable flour or meal, made into cakes and baked into bread, in the manner substantially as herein described, for the purpose set forth.

[This is one of the most valuable inventions that has ever been brought forward, and will be the means of enabling travellers and mariners to enjoy both vegetable and flesh in a most dainty dish at any moment, and what is better, a traveller may carry a month’s provisions in a small tin case. It is now used exclusively by Texan vessels sailing from Galveston.]

From: Scientific American, Vol. 5, No. 22, 174. (source)

23 Mar 1850

New Article of Food - Meat Biscuit.

Some time since we noticed a new kind of Meat Biscuit, or “Portable Desiccated Soup Bread,” invented by Mr. Gail Borden, Jr., a highly respectable citizen of Galveston, Texas. The discovery being fully secured by a patent recently granted, we will give a brief but clear description of it, as it is an invention of the first importance, both to our own country, and it may be said, to the whole human race. The nature of this discovery consists in preserving the concentrated nutritious properties of flesh meat of any kind, combining it with flour and baking it into biscuits. One pound of this bread contains the extract of more than five pounds of the best meat—(containing its usual proportion of bone)—and one ounce of it will make a pint of rich soup. Biscuits by Mr. Borden’s process may be made of beef, veal, fowl's flesh, oysters, &c., and thus in a compact form the very essence of agricultural products, fitted for the traveller or mariner, or for the dwellers in distant cities, may be transported by sea or land, from distant rural districts, where flesh meat is comparatively cheap.

In a letter to Dr. Ashbel Smith, Mr. Borden thus relates the way he made this discovery:

"I was endeavoring to make some portable meat glue (the common kind known) for some friends who were going to California—I had set up a large kettle and evaporating pan, and after two days labour I reduced one hundred and twenty pounds of veal to ten pounds of extract, of a consistence like melted glue and molasses; the weather was warm and rainy, it being the middle of July. I could not dry it either in or out of the house, and unwilling to lose my labour, it occured to me, after various expedients, to mix the article with good flour and bake it. To my great satisfaction, the bread was found to contain all the primary principles of meat, and with a better flavor than simple veal soup, thickened with flour in the ordinary method.

This process of mixing and baking, I found to be easily and quickly done, and to answer the double purpose of concentrating in the same cake, the nutritious properties of animal and vegetable food, so essential to the healthful sustenance of man. This extract of animal flesh may also be combined with corn, or other vegetable meal, and for some marine purposes, I intend to employ the potato and other ascorbutic vegetables, having farinaceous qualities, to desiccate he extract."

Dr. Smith., a gentleman of scientific reputation, has communicated a paper on the subject to Prof. Bache, President of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He says,—" I have several times eaten of the soup made of this meat biscuit,” and thus describes the manner of making it:

“The nutritive portions of beef or other meat, immediately on its being slaughtered, are, by long boiling, separated from the bones and fibrous and cartilaginous matters: the water holding the nutritious matters in solution, is evaporated to a considerable degree of spissitude—this is then made into a dough with firm wheaten flour, the dough rolled and cut into a form of biscuits, is then desiccated, or baked in an oven at a moderate heat. The cooking, both of the flour and the animal food, is thus complete. The meat biscuits thus prepared have the appearance and firmness of the nicest crackers or navy bread, being as dry, and breaking or pulverizing as readily as the most carefully made table crackers. It is preserved in the form of biscuit, or reduced to coarse flour or meal. It is best kept in tin cases hermetically soldered up ; the exclusion of air is not important, humidity alone is to be guarded against.

I have seen some of the biscuit perfectly fresh and sound that have been hanging in sacks since last July in Mr. Borden’s kitchen: and it is to be borne in mind, that in this climate articles contract moisture and moulder promptly, unless kept dry by artificial heat.

For making soup of the meat biscuit, a batter is first made of the pulverized biscuit and cold water—this is stirred into boilling water—the boiling is continued some ten or twenty minutes—salt, pepper, and other condiments are added to suit the taste, and the soup is ready for the table. I have eaten the soup several times,—it has the fresh, lively, clean, and thoroughly done or cooked flavor that used to form the charm of the soups of the Rocher de Cancale. It is perfectly free from that vapid unctuous stale taste which characterizes all prepared soups I have heretofore tried at sea and elsewhere. Those chemical changes in food which, in common language, we denominate cooking, have been perfectly effected in Mr. Borden’s biscuit by the long continued boiling at first, and the subsequent baking or roasting. The soup prepared of it is thus ready to be absorbed into the system without loss, and without tedious digestion in the alimentary canal, and is in the highest degree nutritious and invigorating.

The paramount excellence of Mr. B.’s discovery, appears to me to consist in this, that it is a meat biscuit—it is meat and bread.—Human life may be sustained, as we all know, on a diet of a single kind, but the highest degree of corporeal and mental strength and health can long be maintained only by the use of both vegetable and animal food; especially when labors, fatigues and privations are to be undergone. I believe there does not exist in nature or art the same amount of nutriment in as small bulk or weight, and as well adapted to support, efficiently and permanently, mental and physical vigor, as is concentrated in the meat biscuit in question. One ounce of the biscuit meal makes a pint of rich, invigorating animal and farinaceous soup by its combination with water, all the requirements of a good food are answered, animal and vegetable aliment in a sufficient bulky form.

We publish the remarks of Dr. Smith, as explanative of the process of making it, and to show the opinion of a scientific man on the subject. We have also partaken of this soup bread, and consider it to be a most excellent discovery, one invaluable to the geologist, surveyor, traveller and voyager. Two pounds of it will supply one man for a week, and fourteen pounds will support him for a month. It provides the means of making the journey through the wilderness, to the promised land on the borders of the Pacific, comparatively easy.

From: Scientific American, Vol. 5, No. 27, 213. (source)

See also:
  • Science Quotes by Gail Borden.
  • 9 Nov - short biography, births, deaths and events on date of Borden's birth.
  • Awards were presented for Borden's “Meat Biscuit” at exhibitions both home and abroad. At the London Great Exhibition, first class medals recognized Borden's invention, in the company of other American winners such as McCormick's “Virginia Reaper,” and Goodyear's “India Rubber Fabrics.”
  • Condensed Milk - Borden's invention drew competitors, as shown in this Manufacturer and Builder article (May 1878).
  • Borden's Condensed Milk - was his great invention that launched his very successful diary company supplying his Eagle brand milk to cities distant from farm supply. It was also the subject of several Scientific American articles.
  • Gail Borden and his Inventions - Links to articles on his inventions on this site.
  • Gail Borden - A biography published in 1866 from A History of American Manufactures from 1608 to 1860.
  • Military Use of Borden's Meat Biscuit was recognized as highly suitable for meal rations, and was favorably compared in the Scientific American periodical against the difficulties experienced by other countries having to preserve meats for their military needs.
  • Gail Borden's First Invention was patented under the title “Preparation of Portable Soup-Bread”, issued as U.S. Patent No. 7,066, on 5 Feb 1850.
  • Gail Borden's Condensed Milk Patent gives Borden's description of his method in U.S. Patent No. 15,553 issued 19 Aug 1856 - the first effective commercial process in the U.S. for condensing and preserving milk.
  • Gail Borden's Fruit Juice Concentrating Patent shows his continuing interest in preserving more types of food detailed in U.S. Patent 35,919, issued 22 July 1862, titled “Improvement in Concentrating and Preserving For Use Cider and Other Juices of Fruits.”
  • Gail Borden: Dairyman to a Nation, by Joe Bertram Frantz. - book suggestion.
  • Booklist for Gail Borden.

Nature bears long with those who wrong her. She is patient under abuse. But when abuse has gone too far, when the time of reckoning finally comes, she is equally slow to be appeased and to turn away her wrath. (1882) -- Nathaniel Egleston, who was writing then about deforestation, but speaks equally well about the danger of climate change today.
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