Meat is a perishable product with a short shelf life and therefore short selling times. Therefore, cold chain management in meat supply is of utmost importance for the maintenance of quality and safety of meat/meat products. Raw meat/meat products are likely to support the growth of pathogenic microorganisms and/or spoilage bacteria, and should be kept at temperatures that do not result in a risk to health. The cold chain should not be interrupted at all times along the meat distribution chain.
The complexity of global meat supply chain, with frequently long distribution chains associated with transportation of the product within one country, from one to another country and from one to another continent, makes the solutions for the chilling and freezing regimes, as well as monitoring of time-temperature profiles, very important for the overall success in delivery of product which will be
accepted by consumer for its freshness and safety levels.
Meat supply cold chain management
Preservation of red and poultry meat for trade and export purposes as anaerobic vacuum-packed product in either chilled or frozen form at sufficiently cold temperatures is essential for successful national and international trade.
The impact of long-term chilled storage, as well as frozen storage for export purposes was thoroughly investigated. It was proved that frozen storage durations
were extended for more than one year. In spite of these advances, improvement of preservation technologies within the current export cold chain remains an issue, in particular at industrial level, with potential for advancements encompassing superchilling, ionizing radiation, biopreservation and high hydrostatic pressure or high pressure processing.
Cold Chain in slaughterhouse
In slaughterhouse the meat chill chain starts with two main steps:
(a) The primary chilling (rapid cooling of meat carcasses after slaughter) so that the warmest point of the carcass (center of the hind leg) has to reach a temperature of about < 7°C / 3°C for edible offal and < 4°C for poultry carcasses, to prevent microbial growth and extend the shelf life; with current technology these temperatures can be arrived at in 16–24 hours in small carcasses (lamb), in less than 48 hours in large carcasses (beef, pork) and less than 2h for poultry carcasses (internal deep breast); average and surface temperatures are obviously much lower, reaching 0°C on the surface within four hours; this is very important to slow microbial proliferation; and
(b) Secondary chilling (maintenance of the meat temperature below 7°C (red meat) and below 4°C (poultry meat) at all times during chill storage, cutting, deboning, mincing), before transportation.
The most common technologies to chill meat before transportation are: (i) air chilling, (ii)
immersion chilling, (iii) spray chilling, and (iv) vacuum chilling