This exhibit was created by a USU student. (learn more...)

Age of Industrialization

Horse-Drawn Garbage Wagon
First garbage delivery wagons

During the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, industrialization and manufactured products drastically changed how Americans consumed food [1]. Food became commercialized and went from farm to table and from to factory to table. Consequently, families started to waste food because it was less expensive and more accessible [2].

As a result, disposing of food on the streets became a serious health problem. In 1866, New York City’s Board of Health issued a war on garbage, "forbidding the “throwing of dead animals, garbage, or ashes into the streets.” [3]

By 1916, Salt Lake City faced similar challenges with uncovered garbage cans that caused disease, filth, accidents, and ugliness to the city’s curb appeal. [4] It was not until the early 1920’s that health officials realized the necessity of proper sanitation and implemented waste removal practices. [4]

During this time, incineration was too expensive; as a result, Salt Lake City actually re-used their waste. To explain, “Using one 'covered nonleakable garbage wagon'… the city transported edible garbage to local animal feed companies; non-edible waste was used as fill in road construction.” [4]

Development of Canning 

Morgan Cannery
Morgan Cannery 
Canned Food
Cans from early 1900's 

Although industrialization resulted in more food waste, many cities did try to combat the problem through the development of canning. This process was first invented in 1809 by Frenchman Nicolas Appert, who won competition run by Napoleon Bonaparte to create a method of preserving food for the French army. [5]

By 1901, the American Can Company was created in the USA and showcased cans made of tin. These cans were “developed out of much of the same technical achievements as the steam locomotive” and were mass produced in factories [6].

In Smithfield, a factory called the Morgan Canning Company was established during the early 1900’s to produce canned peas. They are the only remaining factory for commercial canning in Utah and are remembered for branding their product as “Those Good Peas.” [7]

Canning Infographic
Infographic with facts about canning 
The Canning Process
The Canning Process

The invention of tin cans and factories led to an efficient and easy method of reducing food waste. The food canning process, detailed in the graphic below, simply involves cooking vegetables, placing them in a can, sealing it to lock out bacteria, then heating and cooling the can to destroy any remaining bacteria. [8]

Canning substantially reduces food waste because vegetables have a longer shelf life after they are canned. For example, canned cut fruit can last 1-2 years unopened and 7 days opened in the refrigerator. [9] Fresh fruit, such as an apple, lasts 2-4 weeks in a pantry, 1-2 months in a refrigerator, and only an hour outside the refrigerator if cut. [10]

The decreased spoilage rates for canned food plays an important role in reducing food waste. 

1. Nunley, M. (2013). From Farm to Fork to Landfill: Food Waste and Consumption in America. Pitzer College. Retrieved from http://scholarship.claremont.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1032&context=pitzer_theses
2. Rogers, Heather. (2005). Gone Tomorrow: The Hidden Life of Garbage. New York: The New Press.
3. A Garbage Timeline. (1998). Smithsoanian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service.Retrieved from http://www.astc.org/exhibitions/rotten/timeline.htm
4. Loco Steve. (2009). Salt Lake City. Flickr. Retrieved from  https://www.flickr.com/photos/locosteve/galleries/72157624763643782/with/2755364517/#photo_2755364517
5. History of the Can: An Interactive Timeline.  (2013). Can Manufacturers Institute. Retrieved from  AN http://www.cancentral.com/can-stats/history-of-the-can
6. Stolk, W. (1960, July). American Can Company: Revolution in Containers. The Newcomen Society of North America. Retrieved from http://www.oilcans.net/Research/American-Can-Company-1960.html
7. Strack, D. (N.d.). Utah’s Canning Industry. Utah Education Network. Retrieved from http://www.uen.org/utah_history_encyclopedia/c/CANNING.html
8. The Canning Process. (2014). Canned Food Alliance. Retrieved from http://www.mealtime.org/farm-to-table/the-canning-process.aspx
9.  How Long Does Canned Fruit Last? (2012). EatByDate. Retrieved from http://www.eatbydate.com/fruits/canned-fruit-shelf-life-expiration-date/
10.  How Long Do Apples Last? (2012). EatByDate. Retrieved from http://www.eatbydate.com/fruits/fresh/apples-shelf-life-expiration-date/