Pemmican Meat an important industry

Image of a tin of ration Pemmican meat, source
Image of a tin of ration Pemmican, source

Pemmican Meat where it began

In 1886 there was an economic depression in Queensland. Cattle prices were low and the most valuable part of the Beast was the fat which was boiled down for tallow. Dr Joseph’s efforts in devising a method for the preservation of meat by desiccation gives proof of his deep commitment to helping a young colony generate export trade. There were numerous beef extract products on the market in Britain and in Australia but plenty of room for improvement.

On October 21st 1867 Dr Joseph Bancroft registered the patent for his invention of ‘An apparatus for the desiccation of meatery substance and the preservation by desiccation of animal and vegetable products. The patent cost £20 and was valid for 7 years.  In 1869 he registered patent in New South Wales and Victoria.

The actual date on which he commenced the operation in Deception Bay is unclear but it would have been about 1890. Dried vegetables and mullet were also processed. At first the venture was not renumerative but shortly after Joseph’s death, the British War office placed orders for the Army as part of their emergency rations.  Dr Thomas Bancroft assumed control of the factory which was profitable until 1904 when the War office did not renew its contract.

In the prospectus of ‘Australox Limited’ of January 18th 1933 we learn that Mr Francesco Tony was the absolute owner of the ‘secret process’ and that he intended to sell his Patent Rights to the Australox Company for £6000.


Brisbane 18th January 1809

I have much pleasure in testifying to the usefulness and excellence of the dried beef prepared by Dr Bancroft’s process, having frequently used it during eight months of bush traveling and camp life. It makes excellent soup and mince,  in flavour almost undistinguishable from that prepared from fresh beef and the fact of its being dry, concentrated, and not the least liable to spoil, renders it particularly adapted for travellers.  I know of no other preparation of beef that is at the same time so portable and valuable and should be sorry ever to be without a stock of it in my camp.


Government Geologist for South Queensland.

London June 10th 1869

I have to thank you for putting some large tins of the excellent meat prepared by Dr Bancroft on board my late shift the ‘Omar Pasha’ destroyed by fire on April 22nd. I beg to state that it was a great service throughout the Voyage but especially after the sad disaster.  It was easily saved and a small quantity was sufficient to keep a large number of passengers and crew (87 in all) not only from starvation but in excellent state of health for more than 3 weeks. No better proof of its great value could possibly be produced and I shall never certainly never be without it at sea. Again expressing my sincere thanks and wishing the inventor of this process every success.


Lately commanding the ship ‘Omar Pasha’

Sydney November 19 1869

J. Bancroft Esq. M.D. Brisbane Hospital

Dear Sir,

In answer to your letter of the 12th  asking me for the report on the dry beef sent to this Society by Messrs Orr and Honeyman, I  beg to state that at every meeting of our scientific committee at which the matter of preserve meat was bought forward, I had one of your tins open, and examined. In every instance it was pronounced to be in perfect order and acknowledged to contain more actual nourishment than any preserved meat yet submitted it to us.

Jules Joubert, Secretary.

Brisbane July 6th 1870

I can with great pleasure, bear testimony to the use of your dried beef; whilst shooting in the wilds of Ireland and Scotland, where the carriage of other provisions would have been inconvenient, a tin of your beef proved most valuable; on more than one occasion where neither time nor circumstances allowed of its being cooked, we ate it out of the tin, and in this state it proved palatable and fortifying; though of course it was infinitely improved by being made into soup.


HOUHENDEN, August 13, 1891.

Dear Sir.

I can with pleasure bear witness to the great value of your dried beef during the great flood of the year 1890. I was matron to the Sick Children’s Hospital in Brisbane, when to my dismay I found it impossible for the butcher to bring the meat. What to do I did not know,  with about 64 little children depending on me for their dinner,  till  I thought about your dried beef; so I got a cab and went to Brisbane to your home, explaining what a fix I was in. Mrs. Bancroft have me six tins of meat, which I gladly took home and had prepared.  To my delight my little patients had an excellent dinner and thoroughly enjoyed it; but what pleased me most was that not only were the children that were able to take it, but the little ones that were ill in bed, and who had not tasted meat for a long time like it so well that I often afterwards fed them on it. For myself I can say that up here, and sick as I have been, the dried beef has been invaluable. I am, dear sir,

Yours Respectfully,



BRITISH NEW GUINEA, 28th September, 1891.

Dear Dr. Bancroft,

I have used the whole of the dried beef some twenty tins which you gave me on trial, now nearly two years ago. Part of it was used on different occasions when we were travelling in the interior, making an excellent and easy transported meal when boiled with rice. Used that way it requires to be cooked not less than an hour to obtain the full use of its nutritious qualities and to bring out the fresh meat flavour. The last few tins have been used here within the last month or two in making soup. These tins had then been in British New Guinea, nearly two years, had been carried several times into the interior, once to the German Frontier by the Fly River, and when used the meat produced a soup, which instead of having the taste of the tinned article presented the flavor of fresh meat and I have no doubt was equally, out nearly equally, as nutritious.

Yours very sincerely,


From the ‘FIELD.’

We have received from the Agent, Mr. James Gray, of 21a Old Change, E.C., a sample of Dr Bancroft’s dried beef, or Australian Pemmican. This may be described as beef in a state of fine division, so dried as to expel the whole of the moisture, which constitutes nearly 75% of fresh meat. To this a certain amount of fat is added, and we get as the result a material resembling the America Pemmican, which was taken into the Arctic regions by the early era explorers, and which is used by the hunters f the Hudson’s Bay Company. The mode of reparation is to pound together dried beef and fat. Bancroft’s Australian Beef appears to consist of rather more than 40% of fat and 50% of nutritious albumeniods, with traces of moisture and mineral water. In this condition it is capable of keeping any length of time without operation, and can be eaten in a solid state, or made into soup, beef-tea, curries, etc. The preparation will be useful in cases of where fresh meat cannot be obtained, and has been employed with advantage by explorers and voyagers. A few tins may be usefully carried by a camping-out or voyaging party, so as to be prepared for any emergency.

July 2nd 1892.


Dried beef, or Australian Pemmican.

This is a meat food preserved by drying and concentration. It is the invention of, and is prepared by, Dr Bancroft, of Brisbane, Australia. We consider that it is an excellent preparation. It is free from objectionable preservatives, and may, in consequence of the method of manufacture, be kept unchanged. The dried beef may be eaten without further preparation with bread or biscuit, whilst soup, potted meat, and beef-tea can be readily made from it. It is stated to have been used for many months in the Brisbane Hospital. The results of our examination further show that the food consist of flesh with a very small percentage of moisture and a fairly high proportion of fat, and that it is free from adulterants.

July 2nd 1892

The English correspondent of the “Australasian Journal of Pharmacy” writes a follows:

“I notice that Dr Bancroft, of Brisbane, is again endeavouring to place his Pemmican upon the market here, Samples have been submitted to the Lancet and British medical Journal, and both papers speak very highly of it, the last-named publication going so far as to consider that it is an excellent preparation, free from objectionable preservatives, and in consequence of the method of manufacture adopted, may be kept unchanged. I lately saw a small sample of pemmican that had been kept in England for 8 or 10 years, and even after this lapse of time, the preparation appeared to be perfectly fresh and wholesome. It was first introduced here some 18 years ago, and although well pushed amongst medical men, exploring parties, and individual travellers, it never seemed to meet with the success it merited, Perhaps we have arrived at an essentially beef-tea, epoch Pemmican may stand a better chance.”


BRISBANE, 14th September, 1892


I have used you DRIED BEEF in several different ways, and consider that it approaches more closely to what I deem desirable conditions of a preserved meat than any other preparation which has come under me notice. It possesses the advantages of great concentration, so as to be easy of conveyance on long journeys, and is not easily damaged even after the tins are opened. It can be eaten without any preparation, in the form of a sandwich with bread, or may be cooked with vegetables so as to make a very palatable dish, as it retains the full flavour of a well roasted beef. As regards its value as good I have had considerable experience on long journeys of exploration in the Australian interior; having used beef preserved in a similar manner, and observed that the health always improved when it formed part of the rations, as compared with salt meat or meat biscuit. Of course it cannot be expected that any description of preserved meat can compete with that which is fresh killed, but there are so many places where that is not obtainable – as in vessels at sea, and especially on long land journeys that the DRIED BEEF becomes of highest value; while even in the ordinary conditions of household practice emergencies often arise when beef tea, soup, or some made dish is required on such short notice that it can only be provided through the agency of a preparation such as yours.

Yours faithfully,




(Author of “Travels in the Great Andes of the Equator”, “Scrambles among the Alps”.)

LONDON, November 24th , 1893.


On a journey among the High Alps that I made during last July and August I used Brancroft’s DRIED BEEF for the first time. It is an admirable preparation; very portable and convenient for travellers; and goes further than any similar preparation with which I am acquainted. I shall always carry some of it on future journeys, and fell much indebted to you for having brought it to my notice. Believe me,

Very truly yours,


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