Form-fitting Meat Packaging

During Memorial Day weekend, like many other Americans I fired up my barbecue grill, opting to cook bratwurst one afternoon.  I purchased a package of brats from an area supermarket and when I got home, I only then noticed something unique about the packaging (yes, the title of this post is to be taken literally).  Yes, the packaging of this meat product was fitted to the products shape.

See, it really is a form-fitting meat package!

This has many implications for the meat processing and distribution industries.  First, such packaging reduces the amount of packaging material (in this case, a Styrofoam-like material) and subsequently the amount of associated refuse.  Second, it has the potential to eventually reduce the cost ($) of packaging materials which must be included in the meat product’s retail price.  Considering that nearly all meat sold at supermarkets in the United States is sold in a self-service case, the meat retailers (or their suppliers) go through a LOT of packaging materials (some non-recyclable, and those that are … well, how many people recycle meat packaging materials?).

The bratwurst package above may only appear to use a little less foam than the traditional, rectangular trays.  Even so, this is a step, albeit only a baby-step in the right direction.  It works!

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9 thoughts on “Form-fitting Meat Packaging

  1. This is really not that big of a step. In fact, some companies have foregone the Styrofoam completely in favor of vacuum packed plastic. The Sul Ross meat lab in Alpine, Texas does this with all of the meats they process which results in a 100% reduction in styrofoam packaging.

    • Yes, some meat companies have given up on foam trays altogether. Keep in mind that this is ultimately a choice of the retailer and their preferences and specifications.

      Nearly every Meats Laboratory in the United States packages products in vacuum and not in foam trays. I appreciate that you mentioned Sul Ross … seldom do we hear much from them up here! As you point out with size of the reduction being minimal here (which it is), the point of 100% foam tray non-use at the Sul Ross meat lab (even with all meat labs combined) is really more of a statement and not any sizable impact since the volume of meat processed is so incredibly low!

      All aside, the vacuum material we (and they) use are typically non-recyclable nor biodegradable.

      I disagree; this is a step in the reduction of foam tray use and hopefully indicative of future progress.

  2. It’s called vacuum skin packaging and its been around for at least 20 years. It uses vacuum and heat to produce that nice, tight fit; not less packaging. That heating step might even expand the packaging’s carbon foot print. It is a great looking package, though, and can significantly reduce purge.

    • This is not vacuum skin packaging — that is a very different packaging system. It is a regular foam tray (albeit a smaller tray) with a PVC overwrap film (which has been peeled off to remove the processors label).

    • Dear Chuck, obviously meat is not your forte. Vacuum skin pkg? Ummm, not even close. This isn’t VSP. This is an overwrap tray…..

      • Amy, meet Chuck. Chuck, meet Amy. Chuck is president of the Meat Industry Hall of Fame and is an independent journalist for many food industry publications. Amy is an independent meat processor in Kentucky. Perhaps you will cross paths someday.

  3. I can see going to Cryovac packaging (did I spell that right?) for things like briskets and such, it’s been done for decades and they last a lot longer. Aside from that I’m not seeing as much application for that in smaller cuts. The change on the packaging for things like Brats in the pic above would have the effect of requiring more types of packaging to be made since it’s made to spec for the cut, so that may offset any tiny savings in stryofoam. I’m thinking the standard #2 tray vs #10 tray (etc) isn’t going to fall by the wayside anytime soon. It’s just more adaptable.

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