In 1953 someone at Swanson Foods overestimated the number of turkeys needed for Thanksgiving. What Swanson was left with was 260 tons of frozen bird sitting in refrigerated rail cars — and then the rail cars had to be run from Nebraska to the east coast and back to generate refrigeration. A salesperson, Gerry Thomas, came up with an idea to emulate the airline practice of serving pre-prepared food in a tray and presented it to the company.
The Los Angeles Times investigated the story in 2003 and was able to get Thomas to admit that the story about the trains running back and forth between Nebraska and the east coast was only meant to be a “metaphor”.
According to a Library of Congress-related website, Betty Cronin, a bacteriologist working for Swanson at the time says it was the Swanson Brothers who came up with the concept. Ms. Cronin worked on the project to roll-out the new product, making sure all items in the tray would cook in the same amount of time (synchronization). She also developed the fried chicken batter.
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