Cold Chain in Meat and Poultry transport

“To guarantee a healthy fresh product, the time of transportation from producer to consumer must be as short as possible. Not only time is important to guarantee a fresh product. Wrap the product in newspaper as an insulator, place the meat in a cooler, wrap the cooler in blanket covering all cracks to keep the product as cold as possible and preventing spoilage and bacterial growth”

Meat is a perishable product with a short shelf life and therefore short  selling times. Therefore, cold chain management in meat supply is of utmost importance for the maintenance of quality and safety of meat/poultry products. Raw meat/meat products are likely to support the growth of pathogenic microorganisms  and/or spoilage bacteria, and should be kept at temperatures that do not result in a risk  to health. The cold chain should not be interrupted at all times along the meat distribution chain.

The complexity of global meat supply chain, with frequently long distribution chains associated with transportation of the product within one country, from one to another country and from one to another continent, makes the solutions for the chilling and freezing regimes, as well as monitoring of time-temperature profiles, very important for the overall success in delivery of product which will be accepted by consumer for its freshness and safety levels.

During Meat distribution (transportation) route to the final user – wholesale cold storage and/or display at retail, the cold chain must be maintained vigorously. Industrial and/or truck chambers have different characteristics and performances. Its size, initial temperature of incoming meat, targeted temperature during transportation, mechanical characteristics (e.g. power of compressors, ventilation and insulation), as well as energy/cost matters are issues of first priority when considering the meat distribution/transportation. In general, the vehicle must be provided with a good refrigerated system capable to maintain the required temperature of meat/offal at all times during distribution.

Transportation guidelines of Meat & Poultry

During much of the time from slaughter of an animal to consumption meat is in transit between distribution points in the marketing channel. It is the responsibility of the transportation industry to deliver meat to areas where demanded.

During transportation and storage of meat & poultry , the challenge is to maintain proper refrigeration temperatures. Meat should be transported in a correct manner, to make sure no contamination takes place nor bacteria can grow on the product.

There are three types of meat products produced as a result of slaughter:

  • fresh meat products
  • processed meat products
  • frozen meat products

The transportation of each of these products has different guidelines:

Frozen meat products for example can be transported all over the world. If a product is processed, the meat is transported from the slaughter house to the meat processing manufacturer and then to retailers and super markets. 

Fresh meat products have a limited shelf life and therefore have to be in the supermarket within two days. Fresh meat products are therefore not transported long distances typically. Fresh meat products are transported with trucks from the slaughter house to the retailers and the super market.

Processed meat products can either be fresh or frozen. With this being said, trucks are therefore the most common transportation method, especially concerning fresh meats. 

To guarantee a healthy fresh product, the time of transportation from producer to consumer must be as short as possible. Not only time is important to guarantee a fresh product. 

The following actions are further taken to ensure food safety during the transportation of fresh meat products:

  • Before transportation poultry meat should be and kept at temperatures below 4˚C or 40˚F.
  • The meat and meat products should be packaged and checked for leakers, temperature, packaging etc. before transportation.
  • Meat is put in packages, boxes or crates when transported.
  • Human contact should be limited with the products.

During distribution of fresh meat to wholesale or distribution outlets, temperature may increase abruptly with little opportunity to recool. Temperatures within the container sometimes vary 15 to 20 degrees. Transportation Equipment, although probably capable of maintaining a cool environment, must be opened and closed frequently for deliveries. Training of personnel responsible for distribution of fresh meat to wholesale or to retail outlets is vital if temperature increases are to be kept to a minimum.


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