The primary purpose of packaging is to protect its contents, therefor the right type of packaging is as important as the quality of the product it protects.
Sparta Beef prides itself in producing top quality beef and to ensure the integrity of their beef products throughout the entire value chain the majority of their high value beef cuts are vacuum packed in special barrier bags. The vacuum bags used by Sparta beef have special barrier properties that prolong shelf-life, in some cases to as long as 90 days chilled, not frozen. A regular vacuum bag will only extend the shelf life of fresh beef by a maximum of 15-20 days. This is in an ideal chilled environment, it might be less in a regular home or store refrigerator.
Vacuum packing is the process of removing air from a food filled bag before sealing it. To ensure an adequate vacuum seal has been achieved and to ensure that the integrity of the bag is intact Sparta sends their beef through a specially designed steam tunnel after the product has beef vacuum sealed. Here any air leakage will be identified. Any product moving through the steam tunnel, where the vacuum is not achieved, will present as an air filled (blown) bag. The barrier bags prevent oxygen from reaching the meat and this protects the beef from bacterial growth.
Over the years vacuum packaging has become the preferred method of packaging for beef. Not only does it increase the shelf life of the beef, if also prevents moisture from escaping from the bag and keeps the beef juicy. Special barrier vacuum bags also aid in the tenderness of the beef in that it increases the time the beef can be matured without it spoiling. This method of beef maturation is called ‘wet ageing’.
It is important to remember that vacuum packing only protects from bacteria that need oxygen to survive, some pathogens can grow in the absence of oxygen. This fact increases the importance of beef being packed in a hygienic environment. As bacteria multiplies much faster in a warm environment it is also imperative that vacuum packed product is packed as well as stored in a well-chilled environment. Maintaining the cold chain is paramount to maintaining the shelf life of your product.
-Miejon van Zyl