The packaging in the meat sector

Published on 2020-12-09

The new consumer is increasingly committed to the Environment and at the same time, concerned with improving the care of their nutrition, their own wellness, and the world around them.

For that reason, the consumption of natural products low in fat, without gluten or additives, free of artificial preservatives and packed in 100% sustainable packaging, are some of the aspects most demanded by the actual society. Undoubtedly, an upward trend that is gaining strength year after year.

Faced with this unquestionable reality, the meat industry is taking notice and changing its traditional production and storage systems for others that are much more ecological, sustainable, innovative, clean, and healthy. From Naeco, we show you some examples.

Innovations in packaging

The meat sector, like the rest of the food sectors, must face daily challenges related to food safety, sustainability, and the improvement of designs, to which they must provide immediate and reliable solutions.

In this sense, one of the most significant advances that are being observed within the meat industry has to do with the improvement of packaging or food packaging. It is one of the most technologically developed topics with the aim of offering health, practicality, specialized products adapted to each type of consumer, and of course guaranteeing the good condition and preservation of products, reducing food waste to the maximum. In this way, we improve your shopping experience. But, what is being done about it?

  • 100% biodegradable, recyclable and / or compostable packaging. Nowadays, it is struggling to develop, through nanotechnology, new totally biodegradable materials, based on biopolymers, polymers, mixtures, nanoencapsulation and nanocomposites, with the aim of using them for fresh food packaging. Among the European projects that are being worked on are YPACK, a tray made from bacteria obtained from by-products of the food industry itself. On the other hand, we have the Refucoat project, coordinated by the Technological Institute of Plastic (AIMPLAS) with which it is intended to develop food packaging that improves packaging performance and product preservation, avoiding in turn that they end up in landfills because they are fully recyclable. In addition, if we want the processes to be fully sustainable, we must ensure that not only the packaging is sustainable, but also that the plastic pallets, boxes or crates, and containers, responsible for handling and transporting said packaging, are also 100% reusable and recyclable. In this way we favor the care of the Environment.
  • Active packaging. They are designed to avoid deterioration, especially of fresh and processed meats when they are exposed to different environmental factors that accelerate the process. This is because these types of products are subjected to greater manipulation and that increases the risk of the microbial population. Therefore, the objective of these packages is to extend the quality of the packaged product, either by retaining all those undesirable substances that affect the processed meat products or their environment, or by releasing those other substances antioxidants or antibacterial that are most beneficial for meat. Fresh red meats, for example, need to add oxygen to the packaging gas pool to maintain their deep red color. Thanks to the new packaging systems, the active element of natural origin is introduced as part of the structure of the tray itself to achieve that the active agent is released and interacts positively on the packaged food, extending its useful life in a sustainable way. With active packaging, therefore, we respond to the demand that consumers demand, offering them more natural foods, with high nutritional quality and better preserved, also reducing the environmental impact. A current use case is the Chickenpack, an active and antimicrobial packaging project developed by ITENE (Technological Institute of Packaging, Transport and Logistics) to preserve fresh chicken meat.
  • Intelligent packaging. Intelligent packaging incorporates traceability and monitoring systems, such as labels, dyes or enamels to interact with food, in this case with meat products, and receive useful information on their properties, status, quality, and process of handling, transport and storage. This communication is achieved through visual indicators that change color depending on the degree of freshness that the packaged meat presents. Other data of interest that they provide are related to the existing microbiological quality and temperature changes. Undoubtedly, positive elements that contribute to improving product traceability and reducing food waste. Digital tools such as the Internet of Things, together with the high level of automation and the improvement of product traceability, thanks to technologies such as blockchain, play an increasingly important role in the meat industry, fostering the growing use of smart packaging.

The perishable nature of fresh meat products requires reinforcing their protection and, therefore, ensuring certain conditions during their treatment, conservation, handling and transport to avoid waste and reduce losses.

If we add to that that consumer needs have been changing in recent years, we find one of the main reasons why sustainability, applied to meat production processes and logistics solutions, has become a requirement "sine qua non ” for the meat industry.