Wednesday, February 09, 2011

The Invention of Margarine

The Invention of Margarine
Oleomargarine was invented un 1867 by the French chemist Hippolyte Mege-Mouriez, who entered a contest sponsored by Napoleon III.

The contest awarded a prize for anyone who found a satisfactory butter substitute to be used by the navy and the poor.

Mege-Mouriez used margaric acid, a fatty acid component he derived from finely minced beef.

Margaric acid was in fact isolated by Michael Eugene Chevreul in 1813. Chevreul named the product “margaric” because the lustrous pearly drops of the product reminded him of the Greek word for pearl – margarites.

Mege-Mouriez knew he needed to find a name for his product in order to differentiate it from butter. He came up with the word “oleomargarine” because so much of his product consisted of margaric acid.

The prefix “oleo” was taken from the Latin word oleum, which is a name for beef fat, the principal ingredient used.

The word “oleomargarine” was later simplified to “margarine”. Margarine was first introduced in the United States when Mr. Paraf opened the Oleo-Margarine Manufacturing Company in New York City in 1873.

The product was not an immediate success since it was considered a poor man’s butter. Even though its price was much cheaper than that of butter it was considered an inferior product. In addition, new laws were enacted to restrict consumption of margarine.

New York was the first state to enact an outright ban on the use of the product in 1884. This law was struck down by the courts a year later. Congress then got into the act and passed the Margarine Act of 1886, which is imposed tax of 2 cents a pound on margarine and required a manufacturers and dealers to be regulated by licenses.

Margarine consumption didn’t really expand until World War II, when butter was relatively scarce due to rationing and margarine was plentiful.

As a result, per capital consumption of butter declined from 17 pounds in 1940 to 10 pounds in 1948.

At the same time, per capita consumption of margarine rose from 2.4 to 6.1 pounds.
The Invention of Margarine
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