The purpose of packaging is twofold. Firstly, it must preserve the food’s quality from when it is packaged until it reaches the consumer. Secondly, it needs to present the food in an attractive fashion. And when it comes to meat, a desirable colour is important, so this needs to be maintained through the packaging process and be visible to the consumer.
As meat is a perishable product, packaging has always been a challenge. As a result, there are many meat packaging systems out there, including vacuum-packing, controlled atmosphere packaging and active packaging, to name just a few. These systems use a huge range of packaging materials, both rigid and flexible and often in combination, to achieve the best possible results. Which system is used depends on cost, the amount of product being packaged and the needs regarding presentation.
To keep up with new techniques, technology is constantly evolving in terms of machinery. Companies looking to buy food machinery may look to companies trading in used equipment and buy used food machinery from Clarke Fussells or similar second-hand food processing machinery companies in order to manage budgets.
Vacuum Packaging – This is the most widely used method. Air is removed from the packaging container prior to sealing it. The main benefit is that a longer shelf life is achieved due to the impact of air removal on bacteria growth. It also requires less storage space, and any damage to the packaging can be easily detected.
Gas Packaging – This involves altering the volumes of certain gases within the packaging to create a favourable atmosphere for the meat. This can maintain a favourable colour and also extend shelf life.
Active and Intelligent Packaging – This type of packaging can actually improve the quality of the meat by receiving information from the product and using that to change its characteristics by releasing required gases or flavourings, for example.
Edible Films – An edible coating which serves as a barrier and can help with appearance and moisture levels during storage.
Biopolymers – Research is ongoing into films made from natural sources to reduce the reliance on petroleum-based packaging.