What is it?
Vacuum packaging is a form of Modified Atmosphere Packaging (or MAP for short). It simply means changing the atmosphere in which food is stored in order to keep it fresher for longer.
Meat is put inside the specially designed food safe bag and then placed inside the vacuum machine where the machine extracts all the air from inside, creating a vacuum inside the chamber. Once the correct pressure has been reached, the vacuum is released, and two heated bars seal the bag shut.
Why does meat change colour when its Vacuum packed?
Red or dark meat is made up of muscle fibers that include the protein myoglobin. Myoglobin is a richly pigmented protein that is affected by oxygen. Freshly cut meat is bright red because the oxygen in the air has chemically affected the myoglobin. After cooking, the colors changes to dark red or brown as the pigment is further oxidized to become metamyaglobin (a grey-brown shade). The vacuum packing of raw meat interrupts the usual pattern of food color by altering the oxidation process so that it is more purple or brown in colors. Normal color is then regained when meat is removed from the vacuum pack and re-exposed to the air.
How does it work?
Meat shelf life is increased by controlling or altering the environment inside the Vacuum bag. Removing the oxygen slows the rate at which natural enzymes break down the muscle and connective tissue, controls the temperature and slows the growth of bacteria, which would normally break down the meat protein. The better you are able to control a consistent cold temperature, the better shelf life you will get.
When temperature of meat in your home refrigerator or camping chiller moves up and down, life of the packaged meat is decreased. Try to maintain a consistent low temperature by placing you meat packs in the draw of the fridge or at the bottom of your chiller where exposure to warm air is minimized.
How long does it last?
Many variables effect how long meat will last vacuum packed; temperature, quality of packaging, bacteria count and moisture percentage.
Boneless beef and lamb have the best shelf life and will hold for 2 weeks if they have been handled correctly.
When vacuum packing meat on the bone where there is risk of puncturing the bag, good butchers will wrap the exposed bone with bone guard, a wax covered cotton cloth to prevent the bone from breaking the bag.
Products with the bone do not store as well as boneless products and should be used within 10-12 days.
Chicken and pork have a moderate life increase when vacuum packaged, so selecting fresh products and avoiding bone in chicken and pork will get the best results.
When meat is vacuum packaged at the process facility, 6-8 weeks of shelf life is common. Ask your butcher for a whole primal, which has not been re-packaged to get the best shelf life.
Meat packaged at an export standard facility will last longer, ask you butcher where your meat was packaged to establish the quality of process and guidance for storage.
What products to avoid when vacuum packaging?
Here are the nuts and bolts of it, the more handling, cutting, chopping and marinating, the shorter the shelf life you will get.
– Crumbed products go soggy and don’t hold well, freezing is the best option.
– Products that are RTE (Ready To Eat) cannot be vacuum packaged without the appropriate accreditation. Don’t leave this to chance, if your getting RTE products re-packaged, make sure the facility is certified to do this for you.
– Processed or minced products like sausages and burgers need special care when vacuum packed. Give your butcher plenty of notice and ask for your mince to be made fresh then packed.
– Chicken can develop gas in the bag, which may taint the flavour of the product. If you need chicken vacuum packed, whole birds are your best option.
Helpful hints and tips when travelling with vacuum packed meat
– Don’t play with your food. Pack your food in the order you need to use it; products with longer shelf life on the bottom, and your value added products on the top to use first.
– Get things packed in smaller portions, and think through how you will use each cut each day, e.g., 10 single steaks are much easier to handle than 2 packs of 5.
– Sharp rings and watches can puncture vac bags; take care when you’re foraging in your fridge.
If you want to learn more about vacuum packed meat and how IPE can help, please contact us today!
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International Plastic Engineering Co., Ltd
Add: Changle Industrial Zone, Haimen City, Jiangsu Province 226124, China
Contact: Michelle Fan