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B. B. Chrystall

Massey University, Albany Campus

Auckland, New Zealand

Technology Development Group, HortResearch

Hamilton, New Zealand


Chilled meat is packaged under modified atmospheres to preserve it against both microbial spoilage and nonmicro-bial deterioration. Fresh meat is always contaminated by a variety of bacteria, which may include both spoilage and pathogenic strains. Meat is an ideal growth medium for many microorganisms, which have potential for growth to numbers that result in spoilage. Thus meat is a highly perishable food. However, altering the atmosphere can prevent the growth of some organisms and slow the growth of others, thus extending the time before microbial spoilage becomes evident or other microbial problems occur.

An important consideration for packaging and marketing is the retention of an attractive, fresh, salable appearance of meat in display. This includes most importantly muscle color, but also color of fat, bones, and purge in the package and includes prevention of excessive purge. During storage or display of meat, undesirable appearance gradually to rapidly occurs because of dulling, darkening, browning (even to tan or green) (1), and this color deterioration usually becomes a problem more rapidly than microbial spoilage. Dehydration of meat surfaces can also add to the appearance problem. Modified atmosphere packaging (MAP) packages are sealed and composed of films that are excellent barriers to water vapor transmission. MAP packages for red meats must maintain an atmosphere that prevents early deterioration of meat color. Nonmicrobial deterioration of meat flavor or texture will generally be significant only when microbial spoilage can be delayed for very long periods. These could include off-odors, flavors, or both caused by oxidative rancidity.

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