What would you say is the most significant breakthrough in food preservation? Your answer would probably be: refrigeration. That is certainly true, but when it comes to the packing of fresh meat, vacuum packaging brought a revolution in food preservation when it was invented halfway through the 20th Century.

Thank to vacuum packaging, the shelf life of fresh meat can be extended, even without preservatives, so consumers get healthier products and waste less food. 

What are the advantages of vacuum packaging meat?

The main advantage is obviously preservation, with vacuum extending the shelf life of fresh fish and meat considerably, while preserving its qualities like flavor, juiciness, shape and appearance. As a result, less food gets wasted and that means cost savings for businesses, restaurants, and families alike.

Organization of the food stock is another advantage, especially in restaurants. Vacuum bagging meat and fish allows to label the package to facilitate storage and organization.

Vacuum packaging can also prevent freeze burn, which happens if meat comes in direct contact with the ice inside a freezer.

Atlas Copco Vacuum pumps can help in sustainable food production. Our GHS VSD+ oil-sealed vacuum pumps helps the Tönnies Group achieve their sustainability and energy-efficiency goals at their state-of-the-art meat packaging center in Germany. 

Why does vacuum packaging preserve meat longer?

Fresh meat deteriorates faster because of pathogens, fungi, and bacteria that feed off the oxygen present in the atmosphere. A vacuum pump removes the oxygen from the packaged meat, so those micro-organisms stop living and multiplying.

How do I choose a vacuum pump for meat packaging?

Vacuum packaged fish

Whether you’re packaging fresh meat on a small scale or running an enormous factory: you need a reliable vacuum supply at a consistent pressure setpoint.

You can consider various pump technologies, depending on:

  • The volume of the packaging chamber. The larger that is, the higher the air volume you have to remove and the larger the pump installation
  • The target pressure (gas load) 
  • The cycling time of the packaging machine. The number of cycles per minute will dictate the speed of your pump 

When you have decided on the size of pump, you can choose between dry and oil-sealed technologies. Both have their benefits, so the best solution depends on your specific installation. Do you have a production hall with multiple packaging lines? Then a centralized vacuum system is the most efficient set-up, which can save up to 50% on energy and CO2 consumption. If you remove all pumps from your production hall, you also remove their noise, heat and emissions and you allow for faster maintenance. 

Which vacuum pump supports modified atmosphere packaging?

During modified atmosphere packaging the ambient air is removed and replaced by a protective gas, such as nitrogen, carbon dioxide or even oxygen, but in a very high concentration, smothering aerobic microorganisms.

In the case of meat packaging, these high concentrations of oxygen enhance the color of red meat while preserving it. If you require a pump for oxygen reinjection, these are the features you should look for:

  • A dry pump, free of hydrocarbons
  • The oil inside the pump should be inert
  • Seals should be oxygen compatible

Our dry rotary screw pumps or claw pumps are ideal for modified atmosphere packaging, browse them all or talk to an expert for a bespoke solution.

How does a central vacuum system work in meat packaging?

For meat packaging center using a central vacuum system, the highest efficiency is achieved with a pump system that precisely controls the pressure and has the widest possible control range. This guarantees consistent quality of the product in the packaging while at the same time removing harmful atmospheric air from the packaging in the most efficient and energy-saving way. Atlas Copco’s wide portfolio of vacuum pumps, our energy-saving VSD technology for oil-sealed, dry, and liquid ring vacuum pumps make our pumps ideal for centralized vacuum systems found in most meat packaging operations.

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The Tönnies Group is a family company that is active at several levels of the food industry. The family group is active around the world with its eight divisions of Meat Pork, Meat Beef, Convenience, Sausages, Ingredients, Logistics, International and Central Services. The Tönnies Group has 25 international offices and production locations in Germany and other countries.