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The world's big kitchen
The products manufactured in Fray Bentos fed the military troops and the European civilian population at a time when the continent faced shortage of food. Hence, the establishment was known as "the world's big kitchen".
The formula which gave origin to the meat extract was created in 1847 by German chemist Justus Von Liebig, considered the father of organic chemistry. The extract reduces 32 kilos of meat to one kilo without destroying the meat proteins.
Cattle, meadows and the deep harbor
The enormous abundance of livestock and natural grasslands, as well as direct access from overseas to a deep-water port made this region of the Lower Rio Uruguay the ideal enclave for worldwide food industry. Even today Uruguay is one of the largest producers of meat in the world, and the most cattle-raising country by number of cattle per inhabitant.
Vast areas of land
The Liebig's Extract of Meat Company (LEMCO) had more than 100,000 hectares of livestock exploitation at the service of the plant, twice as much as the area of the city of Montevideo.
Movement of vessels
A total of 450 boats arrived at LEMCO's piers in 1898 alone. The movement of ships was similar to that of some European ports of the time.
Medicine or food?
The scientific finding which allowed the creation of the meat extract was published in several scientific journals of the time in the 1840s. Because of its high protein content, many of them presented it as a medicinal preparation and not as food.
In 1908, OXO meat extract was created: an individual cubed portion more accessible to families. That new product, which remains in the market to this day, was an attempt to satisfy the strong European demand for meat extract.
Mass consumption brands
In the 19th century, Corned Beef Fray Bentos and OXO cubed meat extract were mass consumption products and their brands were among the best known ones in the European market.
Marketing and advertising
In addition to launching some of the first food products for mass consumption, LEMCO revolutionized marketing techniques with innovative advertising campaigns of multinational scope.
In all its communications, it applied the "Liebig" brand as a way to assure consumers that they were offered a safe and reliable food product.
From 1872 and for over 100 years, 1,900 series of color lithographs had been produced, each composed of six printed cards. These images were part of a complex marketing campaign designed by agencies in Europe, the United States and Australia.
From the Earth to the moon
Jules Verne used the meat extract manufactured in Rio Negro to feed the imaginary travelers of his novel From the Earth to the Moon. The French writer includes what he calls "pressed meat" as one of the foods carried by the astronauts for its concentration of nutrients and because it was supposed to last a year without going bad.
Corned Beef in the cinema
The Corned Beef Fray Bentos appears in the film "Gallípoli" by Peter Weir (1981), starring Mel Gibson and set in the battle of the First World War for control of the Dardanelles Strait, (Turkey). It also appears in the award-winning "The English Patient" by Anthony Minghella (1996), starring Ralph Fiennes and set in World War II.
Out of competition at exhibitions
Thanks to the excellence of its products, the company LEMCO swept the first prizes of all the international exhibitions in which it was presented. From 1885 onwards, the universal exhibitions only accepted it "out of competition".
The extract of meat was also used by the great expeditionaries to Africa, India, Antarctica, Greenland, the North Pole, etc. Norwegian explorer Fridtjof Nansen (1861-1930) took it to his expedition to the North Pole between 1893 and 1896.
Oxo Trench Kit
During the First World War, LEMCO produced a kit called Oxo Trench which contained, in addition to the soluble cubes of extract, a special support for the kettle and special coal to heat it without emitting smoke. Thus, the soldiers could prepare hot broth in the trenches without risking the disclosure of their position.
Fray Bentos tanks
During the First World War, two British tanks of war carried the nickname Fray Bentos because their crew felt inside like “Corned Beef Fray Bentos” canned meat.
Official sponsor of the 1908 Olympic Games
For the global launch of OXO cubes, its manufacturer became the official sponsor of the 1908 London Olympics. OXO fortifying brew was also given to the marathon runners.
Justus Von Liebig never protected the meat extract formula with a patent because he wanted it to be accessible to anyone who desired to develop it on an industrial scale. His formula was not the first, but the most successful one. He had to wait almost 20 years to see it successfully applied, thanks to the entrepreneurial spirit of his compatriot Eng. George Giebert.
Liebig, Scientific Director of LEMCO
When Engineer George Giebert started his project to produce the meat extract, he asked Liebig for technical approval. He obtained it in 1861 after sending the first samples produced in Fray Bentos to Munich. After founding the Liebig's Extract of Meat Company (LEMCO) in 1865, Giebert proposed to him to occupy the position of the company Scientific Director. Liebig accepted and held the office until the last day of his life, but never traveled to Fray Bentos.
He never visited Fray Bentos
The last words of Justus Von Liebig, creator of the meat extract, pronounced on his deathbed were: "The only thing I regret in my whole life is that my illness has prevented me from getting to know Fray Bentos".
The first electric lamp in Uruguay
The first electric lamp in Uruguay was switched on at the LEMCO on August 10, 1883. 75 light points illuminated the slaughtering yard, the extract production area, the halls of the school and the social club. Montevideo had to wait three more years for its first electric lamps to be lit. By then, one-third of the LEMCO factory already had electricity.
Museo de la Revolución Industrial
Laboratorio de Visualización Digital Avanzada (Vidialab, Fadu, Udelar): Fernando da Silva Nuñez, Ana López Boccassino, Gabriela Barber Sarasola