What is Orange Meat? The Story of Kingston's Lost Breakfast Cereal

Michael Peters Orange Meat

The Frontenac Cereal Co., Limited was formed in the spring of 1902, initially comprised of a committee of prominent turn-of-the-century Kingston residents.

Right from the outset, the ambitious plan seemed to be to move beyond traditional milling to take advantage of the craze for manufactured "pure" food that was sweeping the slowly industrializing new world. The new company was capitalized at $600,000 - an outrageous sum of money in Canada in 1902 (something in the neighborhood of 15 million dollars).Orange Meat Package c. 1904

Finally brought to market in October 1903, for a brief time Orange Meat was a brand of national - even international profile. It was sold and promoted coast-to-coast in Canada. It was exported as far afield as Australia, an impressive feat in an era where international trade still depended very much on sail and steam. 

Orange Meat was a very early example of a manufactured breakfast "flake" cereal, directly connected to Dr. Kellogg's Sanitarium in Battle Creek Michigan where Corn Flakes was being developed. Several Americans with experience in the American "cereal wars" which established Kellogg's and Post and Quaker as familiar brands, were brought in to manage the new company, including a former Kellogg's factory manager.

Orange Meat Ad c. 1904

Orange Meat represented Kingston and Canada at World's Fairs and other national and international exhibitions and ran a series of advertising campaigns and promotions as outrageous as its unusual name.

And for all of that, after a few short years, Orange Meat was gone from general store shelves and seems to have been mostly forgotten, even in the historically-minded Kingston area.

This is merely the story in broad strokes. There is a lot more. 

From the first moment I saw an advertisement, browsing through old copies of the Kingston British Whig, I became hooked on the "fascinating tastiness" of Orange Meat and uncovering its story. I have spent countless hours since then digging into the fascinating story and its cast of characters.

In some ways, the story of Orange Meat is the story of turn-of-the-century Canada itself, awkwardly trying to find a place in the new industrial world order between the British Empire and our American neighbours, trying to become manufacturers of products, not just exporters of raw materials. 

It is also a story of charlatans and scandal and even a little bit of sex. It is a story that deserves to be discovered and remembered.

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