"A trip down memory lane -the home of the PIE" Fray Bentos by Vaughanie

Fray Bentos Travel Guide: 0 reviews and 8 photos

Being British, I have fond memories of being a child and tucking into Fray Bentos, puff pastry pies. They are probably nicer in my memory than they are in real life, but hey, they are still good memories.
When I was flicking through the rough guide to South America before arriving here, I was delighted, if a bit baffled, to see that Fray Bentos is infact a town in Uruguay and it had a factory museum - an old meat packing plant. I couldnt wait to come and see it and relive those fond memories of pie eating pleasure.
It was hardly out of our way, which is good, as the town wouldnt be worth coming to if it involved too much effort. Lying on the Uruguay river and very close to Argentina, it`s a small town with a big past.
Sadly, it is not actually home to the Fray Bentos pie that I knew and loved, not as such. But it is home to the Oxo cube. A german scientist, Liebig, came here in the mid 1800`s to execute his idea of a concentrated beef extract, attracted by the huge volume of good quality cattle roaming freely around the lush Uruguyan pampas. It takes 32kg of cow to produce 1kg of beef extract (ie 1kg of oxo cubes) fascintating hey! And so Liebig`s Company was born and prospered in the early 20th century when the factory became the `kitchen of the world` - the factory produced not only our beloved oxo, but canned meat (cows, pig, lamb) vegetables and especially the delight, that is, corned beef. The produce spread to Europe mainly but also the States and Canada and most importantly of all, fed the troops in both the first and second world wars. Europe and Northern America sent their best technology and people to this little town in Uruguay to build the business and the business thrived. The factory led the industrial revolution in South America - the town was the first in Uruguay to get electricity in fact, 3 years before the capital city!

But what about the pie! It turns out the factory closed in 1979 - one year after I was born and yet I have all these memories eating the `Fray Bentos Puff Pastry Meat Pie` well into the 80`s. It turns out in 1971, the government of took over the factory (a military govt), and by 1979 it was all over, the business no longer suceeded. The factory that employed 4000 in it`s `golden era`, the factory that once employed a quarter of it`s town and killed 6000 cattle a day, was now closed. Such a shame - the town even attracted immigrants from 60 countried who came for work.
The legacy live on though and as it turns out `Fray Bentos` Pies that I knew and loved, have always been British, owned by Campbells of soup fame - the company purchasing the brand name from the factory. The brands that came out of the Uruguayan factory were under Liebig`s name and later the Anglo brand.

We had a wander around the factory - most of it is now crumbling away but there is still a small museum to remember how great times once were. The offices, used by the admin staff, are still in the condition of their last day at work - everything left untouched. Wonderful old classic furniture, old typewriters, photocopiers and calculators that bear no resemblance to the modern versions and a musty smell that takes you back in time.
The rest of the town is quiet and tired with little going on. Some beautiful colonial buildings to admire and sunsets of the river Uruguay but that`s about it. Oh, and a severe lack of coffee. A town without coffee is a dangerous place if you ask me. At least the cows are happy now........

  • Last visit to Fray Bentos: Jan 2005
  • Intro Updated Mar 26, 2006
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