Shelf life product testing at Meatco

07 Jul 2017

Shelf life refers to the use-by date or the length of time that a food item remains fit for consumption. This time span varies depending on the type and packaging of the product.

Meatco produces three types of products, namely chilled/vacuum packed with a 6 to 8 month shelf life; offal with a 12 month shelf life; and frozen packed products that have a two year shelf life.

Meatco’s laboratory conducts shelf life studies on vacuum packed products once a year for seven months. During this time the laboratory collects nine meat cuts from batch 10, 30 and 50 – enough for sampling. The meat cuts selection depends on the cuts collected the previous year, however some cuts are sampled annually, such as top side, fillet, silver side and striploin to mention a few.

Shelf life is determined and affected by physical, microbiological and chemical factors. The physical factor consists of the appearance of the packaging (boxes) which includes visuals to verify any presence of gas which should be extracted to prevent bubbles that can be caused by the presence of micros, thus affecting meat preservation. Furthermore, the weight, temperature and pH of meat cuts are determined, as well as the colour and smell of the packaged meat.

A sensory evaluation test is conducted whereby a piece of meat is cooked without adding spices or salt to retrieve the actual taste. After cooking, odour, flavour and texture are tested by panels. During the microbiological test, Total Bacterial Count, Lactic Acid Bacteria, Clostridium perfrigens and Enterobacteriaceae (micros) are evaluated, with the latter largely found in vacuum packed products with pH.