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Technology in Australia 1788-1988Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering
Table of Contents

Chapter 2

I Technology Transported; 1788-1840

II Technology Established; 1840-1940

III The Coming Of Science

IV From Science To Technology: The Post-war Years

V Products And Processes

VI Conclusion

VII Acknowledgements



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Technology Transported; 1788-1840 [5] (continued)

In 1843 the pastoral industry suffered its first major set-back and the price of sheep and cattle fell dramatically. In that year the Sydney Salting Company was established. It killed and cured the meat, packing it in casks for each pastoralist to export under the company's brand, and it used a method which had been patented in Britain in 1840. The meat was placed in a salt brine and subjected to a vacuum in such a way as to permit the salt solution to replace in the tissues the air removed by the vacuum. The patentee had refused to supply his equipment to the Sydney entrepreneurs, so they designed and built their own to effect the same result and achieved complete impregnation of the meat within a few minutes.

This may well have been Australia's first innovation in food technology but salting was doomed from the beginning by the development of heat processing introduced to Australia by Sizar Elliott in 1845-6. However, the export of salted meat from Australia continued for most of the nineteenth century but was subject to violent fluctuations. It was practically nil in 1842 before the enormous increase stimulated by the abundance of cheap fresh meat from 1843. From 1870 it was swamped by the large exports, first, of canned meats and, then, of refrigerated carcases.

The preservation of milk protein was, and is, achieved by turning milk into cheese. The making of cream, butter, and cheese was farmhouse technology, though there was some co-operation in cheese making at the village level. The first colonists simply did what they were used to at home. The farmers' wives sold the excess over their own needs and at least as early at 1792 both butter and cheese were offered for sale in the Sydney and Parramatta markets. There was no change in Australian practices until the first attempts in the 1860s at some kind of factory organization for cheese production, that is, if we allow that the cheese room at the Van Diemen's Land Company's establishment in the northwest of that colony in the 1820s was simply an enlarged farm dairy. Tasmania exported both butter and cheese in the 1850s but such progress was not maintained. It was not based on factory production.

Very early, especially in Van Diemen's Land, a wide variety of temperate climate fruit trees was introduced. It was natural that jams, jellies and preserves should be made and some of these were offered for sale in glass jars. Jams, known originally as succades, had been known for a very long time. They relied for their keeping quality on their high sugar content. Preserved fruits were something new and were the result of Appert's work in France, but whether or not the preserves referred to by Bischoff in 1832 in Tasmania were truly heat processed or also relied on sugar content is uncertain. There is no doubt, however, that fruit products, too, were being made in small quantities and offered for sale quite early in Australia's history.

The practice of food technology in the first fifty years of the Australian colonies thus closely followed the English experience. It was technology transported with the people who were sent here. There is evidence of considerable ingenuity in the provision of power to grain mills, in the brewing of beer from unlikely materials and in the manufacture of salt. There is also, in the development of the vacuum salting process, an example of innovation, but there is no doubt that initially Australian food technology was a copy of what was being done in England. This was inevitable. It was also inevitable that in that period food processing was a matter of technique rather than an organized technology based on sound principles.

Organisations in Australian Science at Work - Sydney Salting Company

People in Bright Sparcs - Elliott, Sizar

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© 1988 Print Edition pages 75 - 76, Online Edition 2000
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