How has packaging in the meat sector evolved?

Packaging

In tray, sheet, pouch and film format, the most common packaging material used in the meat sector is plastic, far exceeding other materials like cardboard and glass. So, why is plastic ideal for meat  products, and how has it evolved in recent years? Let’s take a look. 

FEATURES OF MEAT-SECTOR PACKAGING

The primary function of packaging is to protect the product so it reaches the consumer in prime condition. For the meat sector this principally means protecting foods that are especially sensitive to oxidation. These products often have a high fat content so the packaging has to have a high oxygen barrier to prevent their deterioration.

There are, however, many other factors that affect the physical, chemical, biological and microbiological deterioration of meat products, and these can even make the food harmful to health.

So, what are the best types of packaging for the meat sector?

BEST PACKAGING FOR THE MEAT SECTOR

According to a guide created by Ecoembes in collaboration with Anice — the National Association for Meat Industries in Spain — there are several categories in the meat sector that require different types of packaging.

FRESH MEAT AND MEAT PRODUCTS

This meat that has not been transformed or preserved in any way other than refrigeration. If any condiments or additives have been added, these have not altered the internal structure of the meat. These products usually have a very short shelf life and are especially sensitive to factors such as oxidation. Which types of packaging are best suited to fresh meat?

  • Flexible material for top film with a high oxygen barrier, or for modified atmosphere packaging.
  • Semi-rigid materials for vacuum-packing.
  • PET and PP trays for thermosealing with flexible top film.
envases individuales para necesidades de consumo

CURED MEATS AND COLD CUTS

Cured meats have fewer preservation requirements and a much longer shelf life than cooked ones. Perforated packaging is ideal for some cured meats, such as cured sausages, but other options include:

  • Pouches: with or without vacuum-packing.
  • Thermosealed trays made of PET, rPET or PET PE with a top film of flexible material.
  • Stand-up pouches, one of the most innovative types of packaging that improves user experience.

Sliced meats, especially cooked cold cuts, are very sensitive to deterioration through oxidation. This is why modified-atmosphere packaging and vacuum-packing are commonly used, as well as trays made of multilayer materials with barrier properties. Another current packaging trend for cold cuts is individual resealable packets which make it easier to consume and then store a product.

PRE-PREPARED DISHES

Pre-prepared dishes are the stars of the convenience food trend . These pre-prepared, ready-to-eat products are conveniently packaged to eat on the go or with minimal preparation.

They consist of meat, either in a sauce or mixed with other foods, that can be eaten directly from the packet, or just pre-heated or cooked in it. The most common types of packaging for pre-prepared dishes are:

  • Vacuum-packed pouches.
  • Doypack or stand-up pouches.
  • Thermosealed trays with flexible top film.

However, it’s important not to forget one of the most popular types of packaging for ready meals, microwaveable packaging. The plastic used for this type of packaging has to withstand high temperatures, and this has been achieved thanks to innovative technology.

FROZEN FOODS

The last category that requires a certain type of packaging is frozen meat, which can be either fresh or processed. In this case, the main function of packaging is not to lengthen shelf life, but to be able to withstand low temperatures, and be tear and puncture resistant. The most common format used is a semi-rigid structure with polyethylene and polyamide.

At SP Group we have many packaging solutions for the meat sector, ranging from rigid materials for thermoformable packaging to all types of flexible packaging with barrier properties for greater protection and preservation.

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