The Cost of Meat Packaging
Meat packaging varies depending on the type of meat being packaged. The cost and initial investment of meat packaging cannot accurately be stated with one general price. Several factors determine the cost of meat packaging.
In this post we are going to discuss two of the more common forms of meat packaging. Each form of meat packaging is designed for specific applications often related to desired storage times.
This form of meat packaging is very common with fresh cuts of meat. It can be found on grocery store shelves around the world. The process of overwrapping uses a thin flexible meat film to wrap over cuts of meat. Overwrapping can be done on highspeed machines for large scale processing, but most people are familiar with the in-store overwrapping machines.
Meat overwrapping from grocery stores or a food mart uses an FDA approved meat film that is made to be used with a heat pad. The meat product being wrapped is placed on a Styrofoam or plastic tray. Once placed on the tray, the operator pulls the film over the meat and container. Open ends of the film are pulled tight and tucked under the tray.
Once film is tucked under the meat tray, the tray is set on the heating pad. The heat from the pad mends open ends together to form a closure. The seal is not waterproof or intended to keep oxygen from entering the package. The film helps to keep juices in the package, while protecting the meat from exterior elements.
Most businesses use overwrapping for short term display or transport packaging. Thicker 100 to 125 ga meat film can be used for longer term freezer storage if desired. The thickness and width of meat film used can determine the cost per package.
On the low side a lighter 57 gauge meat film can cost $.012 per square ft. A heavier 125 ga can cost up to $.03 per sqft. In addition to film costs, trays typically cost $.02 to $.05 each depending on size. Much more affordable than many other forms of packaging. Companies can package thousands of packages with 1 roll of film before needing to change.
Meat Vacuum Packaging
Meat vacuum packaging is used for packaging many types of meat for extended shelf life. Vacuum packaging is a form of modified atmosphere packaging. The vacuum reduces oxygen content and modifies the atmosphere around the product being packaged.
Proper vacuum packaging provides an air tight seal completely enclosing the product within the packaging. The full seal lowers the risk of freezer burn and increases storage life. Common vacuum packaged meats include: bacon, sausage, cold cuts, and more.
Standard vacuum sealers remove air and reduce oxygen content within the package. The reduction of oxygen increases shelf life and slows natural decay. Gas flush vacuum packaging uses inert gases to extend product shelf life. The most common gas used is nitrogen. Nitrogen makes up 78% of the earth's atmosphere. Nitrogen is also heavier than oxygen and pushes oxygen molecules out of the package prior to making a seal. The proper amount of gas flush for the products being packaged can increase the product life tenfold.
Vacuum packaging bags and materials are thicker than other meat packaging materials. Most vacuum bags begin at a 3 mil thickness. Bone-in cuts of meat often require up to a 5 or 6 mil thickness of vacuum packaging material.
Due to the thickness of materials and the machines required, vacuum packaging can be more costly than other meat packaging options. The advantage it offers is better protection and a longer storage life. In addition to the thickness of vacuum packaging material, the size of the bag will determine cost as well.
For a standard 3 mil thick vacuum bag 8”x10” meat vacuum packaging can begin at $.066 per package. Thicker 5 mil bags of the same size start at $.15 per package. Vacuum sealers come in a variety of price ranges. Home use sealers can be bought for under $100 while commercial vacuum sealers can cost up to a few thousand dollars. These are beginning estimates and all prices can be lowered based on quantities ordered.
Different cuts of meat and varied storage times can require different forms of meat packaging. Feel free to give us a call if you have any additional questions about meat packaging and what machines are the best solution for you.