• Monday, December 7, 2015

    It’s all in the package: Ground Beef

    I'm not sure why I have this silly face.
    I love to take #meatcounterselfies!
    A few weeks ago, I made a quick stop in a local grocery store to pick up some stuff for office lunches. Of course, I had to swing by the meat counter for a #meatcounterselfie.

    While I was there, I found four different examples of packaging ground beef in the retail case. So, I snapped a few pictures and made a quick facebook post. My post was so popular, I decided to recreate here in the blog.

    Foam trays with over wrap.
    One of the most popular types of packaging
    Foam trays with over wrap. It's kinda like cling wrap. In the world of meat science, we call this aerobic packaging. It's aerobic because it allows oxygen to react with the protein and creates the bright red color consumers like to see.

    This packaging type is pretty inexpensive and easy, but the oxygen makes the meat spoil in a couple of days. You also shouldn't freeze meat packaged this way because it's more likely to freezer burn.

    Ground beef chubs
    We call these packages ground beef chubs. These are 10-pound packages, but you can get chubs in 5-pound, 2-pound, and even 1-pound. They are not always in clear bags like this. Sometimes the chubs are white and only tie at one end.

    This beef was packaged in the packing plant. That's good because it decreases the number of people that handled it and lowers the chances that it will spoil. They are essentially a vacuum package, which is why you see that purplish-red color. The vacuum isn't perfect. Sometimes a little air will get in on the ends.

    Beef can stay safely in this package for several days, and you can stick it directly in the freezer. My friend, Dr. Casey Owens, commented that she likes to buy ground beef in these big chubs and divide it into 1-pound portions in zip-loc freezer bags. That’s a great way to save some money.

    Modified atmosphere package
    This is called a modified-atmosphere package. This ground beef was also packaged in the packing plant, so the number of times it’s been handled is decreased compared to foam tray packaging. It's kind of like a vacuum package because it's sealed, but it has a special blend of air in the package to help control the growth of bacteria and give the meat that pretty red color.

    I wouldn't use this package to freeze the meat; I would re-package it in a zip-loc freezer bag or a home-vacuum packager.

    Vacuum-sealed package

    Last is a vacuum sealed package. This beef was packaged in the packing plant and is a completely sealed package. See how it's a purplish-red color?

    This package will have the longest shelf-life, and meat will freeze in that package just fine. It's also nice and flat, so it will thaw easily, too.

    The meat counter at this store had several different options of ground beef, and, as a meat head, it was exciting to me to see all these different ways to package it represented in one store. But, please know that all these packaging types are safe. Regardless of how the beef is packaged or processed or any claims made on the label, all ground beef should be cooked to 160 F and checked with a meat thermometer.

    I have another neat post called 10 things you didn’t know about ground beef or you may enjoy any of my other posts about beef, food safety, or the labels you see on packages.

    What questions do you have about things you see in the meat counter?