When American railroads debuted cold cars in the mid-1800s, they moved milk and butter only: They weren't nearly cold enough to safely carry raw meat from place to place. In 1867, when J.B. Sutherland patented the first fully refrigerated car in America, he couldn't even find investors. But the next year another inventor, William Davis, manage to sell his design to a meatpacker. In Davis's car, carcasses hung from hooks over a bed of ice and salt. Though they were top-heavy, they worked well enough, and meat began making its way across the country.
Around the same time, England was hungry for meat. Its own stocks were not large enough to meet the country's demand, and as James Troubridge Critchell writes in A History of the Frozen Meat Trade, "It was plain that the inhabitants of England would have to be content with less meat or pay fancy prices for it."
Certain British colonies, though, had more than enough meat. In Australia and New Zealand, inventors were busy working to prove that frozen meat was perfectly safe to eat and planning how to take it on the three-month sea voyage to Britain. By 1873, James Harrison, a Scottish-born journalist and businessman, showed that meat that had been frozen for months was perfectly safe to eat. He won a prize and the chance to ship 25 tons of beef and mutton to England.