As retailers consider the many components of running a successful retail meat program out-of-stock, shrink, labor costs and more it appears they are more than ready for case-ready meats. As the meat industry evaluates package delivery systems for beef, pork, lamb, veal and ground meat products, one system that is now being considered is <%=company%>'s new ActiveTech Case Ready Packaging System.
Tenneco developed the modified atmosphere packaging system in response to market demands for fresh red meat that looks like it was just butchered. "The consumer wants something that doesn't look manufactured," says Daniel G. Carr, vice president, Packer/Processor Businesses, Specialty and Consumer Products at <%=company%>. "The market wants 21-day distribution life."
And that's exactly what ActiveTech, recently unveiled by the multifaceted packaging company, delivers meat that was produced at the processor's manufacturing plant but looks freshly cut from the retailer's back room. Using a patented technology whereby an oxygen absorber is attached to a film overwrap used to package the meat pack, the ActiveTech system eliminates oxygen and maintains zero oxygen content within the meat package and replaces it with a mixture of carbon dioxide and nitrogen. The end result is a 21-30-day distribution life for case-ready meats.
Carr explains that this mixture of CO2 and N2 slows microbial growth, which provides a distribution life of at least 30 days on whole muscle products and 21 days on ground meat. "So when you open an ActiveTech package after 30 days, the meat will bloom to its normal bright color and will still have a low bacterial count," he says.
The system, thus, provides retailers inventory control benefits, allowing them to minimize both shrink and out-of-stock situations. "The product," says Carr, "becomes an SKU instead of being processed in the back room." Carr notes that ActiveTech can be used on all species and cuts.
Zero Oxygen Content
At a processor's plant where chops, steaks, roasts or ground meat are packaged in either single packs or multipacks, an ActiveTech absorbent is adhered to an overwrap film, which is used as an outer wrap package for the meat packs. This absorbent takes the oxygen in the package to zero, maintains it there and incorporates the CO2 and N2 mixture. The packages are then delivered through standard distribution channels at normal temperatures of 34-36°F.
Upon arrival at the retail store, the ActiveTech barrier package is easily opened by tearing its notched edge, and the product is removed from the package, which is simply then discarded. Once the pack of meat is removed from the outer ActiveTech package, the meat will re-bloom within 20 minutes and, due to the CO2 atmosphere in the barrier bag, will stay fresh at least as long as, or even longer than, says Tenneco, regular meat packages. The meat pack is then dated and labeled and placed in the retail meat case.
Standard Packaging Components
Designed specifically for case-ready meat applications, the ActiveTech system can be cost-effective because it utilizes standard packaging components. The system uses processor-graded foam trays the same type of trays consumers are used to seeing in grocery store meat cases and it runs most tray sizes and produces both single packs and larger, multiple packs. Carr says the packages can be run on any standard flow wrapper with just about any permeable film wrap such as polyolefin or PVC. Single pack trays can be wrapped in an ActiveTech package in-line at 20-40 per minute.
"The system incorporates technologies, such as standard foam trays, any tray wrapper and any breathable film, that already existed," says Carr. This, he notes, makes the modular ActiveTech system easily configurable and economical to fit into existing workflows.
In addition to offering longer shelf-life than traditional boxed or case-ready programs, the system helps packers maintain maximum inventory and distribution control. It enables them to run consistent production shifts and stock inventory to fill orders. The packaging system also supports category management. Because ActiveTech is an individual package, meat departments can merchandise only the product amount they can sell during the trading day. If sales are brisk, they simply open more packages; conversely, on a slow day, packages can be left unopened in the back cooler. This keen inventory management capability enables meat departments to stock a wider variety of products while virtually eliminating shrink.
Carr said two major meat processors, Iowa Beef Processors (Dakota Dunes, SD) and Hormel Foods (Austin, MN) have installed ActiveTech systems for beef and pork products, respectively. Officials at IBP say the company is currently producing ActiveTech case-ready beef products for commercial application on a Formost Packaging Machines (Woodinville, WA) flow wrapper, however they add that, though retailers are ready for case-ready products, the market is still in an evaluation stage of such products. At Hormel, a spokesman says the company is still testing the system for case-ready pork. Hormel is using a clear film run on a Formost flow wrapper.
Tenneco reports that in the past two months, the nation's fifth largest beef packer, Monfort of Colorado Inc. (Greeley, CO), has begun using the ActiveTech system for ground beef applications. Monfort, too, is using a Formost horizontal f/f/s system to wrap single beef packs using a barrier film.
For more information: <%=company%>, Specialty and Consumer Products, 1900 West Field Court, Lake Forest, IL 60045, Tel: 800-476-4300.