DUNCAN, S.C. (AP) — If you had a turkey on the table during the holidays this year, chances are the frozen bird was protected by a wrapper designed 50 years ago by a South Carolina company.
Cryovac created a process at its plant in Duncan that allowed a turkey to be slaughtered, cleaned, wrapped in the stretchy film, vacuum-packed and quickly frozen. The invention turned the meat from an only-on-the-holidays treat that often had to be eaten fresh within 25 days to something enjoyed year-round with a shelf life of up to 18 months if frozen properly
The effect on the diet of Americans was immediate. In 1961, the year before the Cryovac bag hit the market, 109 million pounds of turkey was produced in the United States. Five years later, turkey production more than doubled to 284 million pounds and in 2011, 3.6 billion pounds of turkey was produced in this county, according to statistics from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
"It was really a major packaging innovation. Without, the industry would not have been able to grow at the rate it did," said Dan Blackshear, who spent more than three decades in the turkey business and is a former CEO of Carolinas Turkeys, which acquired Butterball in 2006.
Cryovac, which was bought more than a decade ago by Fortune 500 company Sealed Air, still runs that plant in Duncan, along with plants in Simpsonville and Seneca. Sealed Air has more than 2,600 employees across the state. The Simpsonville plant makes more than a billion bags a year for turkeys, ham, fresh beef and other meat, said Karl Deily, president of the food and beverage division of Sealed Air.
Cryovac was founded in Boston in 1940s and moved to Duncan in 1962, the same year the three-layer paper-thin flexible turkey bag that built the company was developed. And the bag used to protect the turkeys going on holiday tables this year aren't much different than the ones made 50 years ago, said Don Smith, the director of marketing for poultry and seafood for Cryovac.