The processor, packer, and retailer joined forces to develop a process based on quality meat selection, followed by maturation during at least 21 days and premium packaging to ensure extended shelf-life.
BP was able to replicate meat maturation methods on a mass scale. Packager Cryovac on the other hand was able to develop secure, high quality, printable packaging capable of meeting the requirements of a wide range of products and operable on high-speed lines.
The result is a combination of an inner and outer packaging. For beefsteaks, Cryovac Darfresh vacuum skin packaging was chosen for its premium effect, superior security and seal integrity. Its 'second skin' effect respects the product's natural shape and contour, while providing a consumer pack of prolonged shelf life.
For beef joints, the Cryovac BB4L plain shrink barrier bag is combined with the Cryovac U-BRT tray. Cryovac barrier bags also ensure extended shelf life and preserve the meat's organoleptic qualities. The U-BRT ultra-barrier trays are specifically targeted at fresh meat products with long shelf life requirements.
In both cases, secure packs provide highest quality preservation and shelf life. For communications purposes, an outer packaging consisting of Cryovac EOD laminate pouches printable in nine colours was seen to offer a good solution.
For distribution and retail display, the packs are placed in clear PVC straight-on trays. Cryovac was thus able to deliver a complete solution, including Darfresh or barrier bag inner packaging, a laminate pouch for the outer packaging and the special trays for display.
For counter-serve items, the Cryovac BB325 barrier bag is used to pack larger beef joints, which in-store butchers cut on request. This provides the retailer with the ultimate flexibility, allowing easy adjustments to swings in demand.
According to Cryovac, independent research shows that vacuum packaging followed by case-ready packaging allows meat producers to achieve the eating qualities consumers want, because the process leads to meat maturation and improved tenderness and juiciness.
Research also confirms that pre-maturation of meat primals is the key to improved tenderness and juiciness. If meat is first matured under vacuum in a shrink bag for up to 10 days and then packed in consumer units, both tenderness and juiciness are significantly enhanced.
A previous study undertaken in the UK by the Meat and Livestock Commission (MLC) showed that the extended ageing - or maturation - through vacuum packaging improves the sensory tenderness of meat, which benefited from the process of maturation in both the eating qualities - defined as tenderness and succulence - and flavour, while optimising the colour display shelf-life for the retailer and maximising the actual shelf-life for both the processor and the retailer.
Cryovac says that it has been promoting this concept for many years. But with this new range of premium steaks and joints, the company feels that consumers are now becoming aware of the concept. The firm believes that customers are buying into the concept that quality meat cuts packed under vacuum provide superior tenderness and eating quality.
ABP is one of two beef processors supplying the leading UK retail chain Sainsbury's. The ABP plant at Ellesmere in Shropshire, North of England, specialises in beef production. The site includes a slaughterhouse, a boning hall and retail room. Typically producing 600,000 retail packs per week, this plant is almost exclusively dedicated to supplying Sainsbury's.
Anglo Beef Processors (ABP) is one of the UK's leading meat processors, producing a range of fresh beef in shelf-ready packs for a number of retail chains. With an annual turnover in excess of €475 million, the firms employs more than 2,000 in 14 plants nationwide.
And with a turnover of €19 billion, Sainsbury's is the UK's third-largest food retailing chain. The company serves over 11 million customers a week and as at October 2003 had 512 stores throughout the UK. The company works with more than 2,500 suppliers.