Packaging Trends and the Testing that Goes into Ensuring Meat Stays Safe and Extends the Product’s Shelf Life

The summer grilling season is here. As families break out the grill for burgers and steaks in the backyard, it’s an essential time for companies to have meat packaging that keeps products safe and fresh from the grocery store to the kitchen.

Packaging meat to ensure it stays fresh is complex. Modified Atmosphere Packaging (MAP) is an excellent solution for preventing discoloration and bacterial growth. With this process, a mix of gases is flushed into a hermetically sealed package, extending the product’s shelf life significantly. In addition to preventing spoilage, MAP technology can help maintain the product’s appearance, texture and nutrition content. However, this process comes with its own challenges like ensuring the gas is flushed into the package at the right concentration and that the gas is staying in the package.

Maintaining a consistent gas mixture is crucial for a company’s bottom line. Different tools are available throughout the meat packaging process to improve quality control, which in turn can boost a company’s savings and reputation for quality meat.

Headspace MAP Gas Analyzers Provide Fast Results
Headspace MAP gas analyzers are vital in testing the amount of gas in the headspace of the package, giving meat manufacturers fast, reliable results every time for meat and seafood packages of any shape or size. Headspace analyzers also measure the residual oxygen in a product, helping to ensure that it does not exceed predefined limits, which could increase the risk of bacteria and mold.

There are even handheld analyzer options, which are easy to use by inserting a needle into the package and drawing a sample into the sensor, reading the gas levels inside the package. Designed to work in challenging environments, like refrigerated conditions, these types of analyzers use an optical sensor to provide accurate results and improve MAP quality control. Some headspace analyzers are even WiFi-enabled, allowing for fast and simple data transfer to a company’s database with no cables required.

On-line Gas Analyzers Boost Quality Assurance
The right gas combination is essential for MAP products’ freshness and appearance and requires the use of the correct gas blending equipment from the start of production while running on-line QA. An on-line gas mixer can accurately and reliably blend MAP gases and monitor them in real-time. They provide stable mixing regardless of inlet pressures, and configurations can be saved on the instrument to save time and avoid errors when handling the gas mixtures for different products.

Using too much gas in MAP is a common problem that can affect a company’s production costs. The less companies need to overuse gas, the more money they save. An on-line gas analyzer can monitor the gas content with real-time control of package flushing, and that can translate into a 20% to 50% decrease in gas consumption. On-line quality assurance tests every package quickly and efficiently. Production can stop if a problem is identified, helping companies avoid recalls or repacking entire batches of bad meat products.

Efficient Leak Detection Minimizes Risk
No company likes recalls, delays or packaging mistakes, and consumers expect to be able to throw meat products directly on the grill after purchasing. Leak detectors can minimize brand-compromising surprises by checking that your packaging is working properly – and allowing manufacturers to get the products back on track quickly if there’s a leak.

Many leak detectors can perform multiple types of leak tests, such as bubble, burst and creep. This helps manufacturers precisely identify the degree and source of a leak, making it easier to correct package flaws. Leak detectors provide fast, accurate results that prevent unusable food from getting to retailers and consumers at the store.

Solutions That Raise Your Reputation with Consumers
There are a variety of solutions when it comes to ensuring proper MAP in your meat production process.
On-line gas analyzers check packages for optimal gas use, eliminating a company’s wasted money, time and materials on repackaging, while headspace MAP gas analyzers check the oxygen and carbon dioxide levels, protecting the products and their shelf life. Leak detectors prevent a company’s reputation from being compromised with its customers by finding leaks in meat product packages before they end up in a grocery store, and eventually, in someone’s summertime cookout.

Packaging meat is a complex process, but with the right instruments in place, a company can get fast, accurate results that can help a company’s bottom line and reputation with its customers.

Wade Sand

Writer’s Bio

Wade Sand is the Senior Manager for U.S. Sales at Minnesota-based AMETEK MOCON, an industry leader in gas analysis and permeation technology. He specializes in the Dansensor product line of headspace MAP gas analyzers, package leak detectors and gas mixers.