Proper Refrigeration For Meat And Poultry Handling


Human beings have learned that keeping game cool meant it stayed fresh longer. Burying game in snow or in deep caves was an early form of refrigeration. Eventually, ice harvesting became a common practice in the winter to store more for the summer months.

Obviously, over time we have developed much more sophisticated means of refrigeration or ice production to keep meat and poultry safe and fresh but the concept remains the same. Today’s technology and products for the meat and poultry industry help companies deliver safe product to consumers and also meet industry regulations.

Ideal Temperatures

The basic rule of thumb for refrigeration is that meat or poultry must be kept below 40o in order to prevent bacterial growth. The most rapid growth will occur between 40 o and 140 o F and can include both pathogenic bacteria and spoilage bacteria. Pathogenic bacteria can cause illness in anyone who consumes the meat. It is often undetectable by sight or smell. Spoilage bacteria will cause discoloration, unpleasant smells or other clear signs that the meat is no longer good. Spoilage bacteria can also develop in the cooler temperatures if the meat is left too long—hence the need for freezing at times instead of basic refrigeration.

Stages Of Meat Handling

There are multiple stages that meat or poultry must pass through from the field to the consumer. Each one of these requires the proper handling in order to ensure a safe product is ultimately purchased and consumed. In earlier phases, full and prompt freezing is of great importance and at each passing stage, maintaining proper temperature becomes paramount. Meat and poultry must be cared for properly at each of these phases—immediately after slaughter, during shipping and handling and when in storage or on display at the end retail facility.

Commercial Refrigeration Options

There are many companies, such as SEMCO, that provide robust products to the meat and poultry industry that allow them to meet appropriate regulations and maintain high food safety standards for all stages of meat handling from slaughter to the end purchase. This includes everything from special chillers that are used in processing at and early phase to special flake ice or other similar products used to maintain cold temperatures in retail display cases and more.

Benefits Of Proper Refrigeration

For companies in the meat and poultry industry whether food handlers or retailers, the benefits and reason to ensure only the highest quality refrigeration is used are clear. Making sure that all regulations surrounding the handling of meat and poultry are met can not only prevent fines but mean the difference between staying in business or not. The responsibility to provide safe food is a heavy one indeed as the people’s health depends on this.

Additionally, from a business perspective, increasing the shelf life of product as it moves through the supply chain carries with it great cost benefit (or risk if it does not occur). Timeliness of delivery or sale is always important to prevent spoilage or loss of product and therefore loss of revenue.

Technology has allowed great advances in the realm of commercial icing, freezing and cooling applications and products, including some developed specifically for the meat and poultry industry. Everyone from regulators to corporate executives to end consumers benefit from this.