19 Oct How Fresh is Fresh?
JUAN SAYS: We are all too familiar about getting fresh meat from the market. Truth be told, we have been made aware by our moms or our cooks that the best place to get fresh meat is from your local market. They would even go as far as identifying what days they slaughter pig, cows and even chicken. But little do we know that even if meat is freshly slaughtered, it’s exposure to heat and humidity hastens the degradation of its quality.
How sure are we that the meat served on our tables are indeed fresh?
JUAN was recently introduced to the cold chain process of RDF, a local producer that has gained the growing trust of Filipino meat consumers to ensure the quality of meat they sell. From the slaughterhouse or dressing plants to dispatching to the delivery of animal protein, RDF guarantees its freshness.
Producing safe food should be the ultimate goal of any agri-food system enterprise. By the time the meat reaches the consumer’s kitchen, they should be assured of the many safety measures taken by these companies to deliver fresh and quality meat. Big brand names are not enough to guarantee the viability of the meat we purchase.
The problem lies with the company’s delivery system. Most companies contract third parties to deliver freshly slaughtered meat with no proper monitoring systems on the trucks’ temperature and travel time. It is common knowledge that some of these contractors turn off the truck’s refrigeration system during travel to lessen fuel costs. Proper handling of products during delivery also plays a key role in maintaining quality. Dropping of products directly to the floor, or carrying carcasses on the bare backs of handlers are common practices, which compromise the product.
The meat supplier’s delivery system is usually where it falls short. Meat producers may have the best plants with state of the art facilities but if they have a poor delivery system, the whole process to keep the quality of the meat is compromised.
How does the cold chain process go?
Livestock and poultry are prepared differently at the start of the cold chain process.
For pork, the cold chain process starts in the slaughterhouse where carcasses are placed in a refrigerated 10-wheeler truck that transfers carcass to the central depot. This process cools down the internal temperature of hot carcasses. At the central depot, the internal temperature of the carcasses reaches 36 to 39 degree Celsius. It will then be stored in the holding room with the room temperature of -10 to -15 degrees Celsius to cool down the carcass internal temperature to 7 degrees Celsius below before cutting.
The holding room is precooled an hour prior to the arrival of the carcasses. After pre-washing and sanitizing using chlorinated water at 0 to 3 degree Celsius, carcasses are transferred to the pre-cooled holding room and stored for 14 to 16 hours or until it reaches an internal temperature of less than 7 degree Celsius. The carcasses are then sent to the fabrication area, cooled at 10 to 15 degree Celsius, for primal cutting.
For chicken, the cold chain process starts in the dressing plant. Dressed chickens are passed through
two chilling vat washers to sanitize the carcasses and cool the chicken internal temperature down to 4 degrees Celsius. The first chilling vat has chlorinated chilled water with a temperature of 8 to 12 degrees
Celsius. The second vat has chlorinated water cooled to 0 to 3 degrees Celsius. Chilled dressed chicken will then be placed in crates lined with plastic and filled with crushed ice.
For beef, the holding room is pro-cooled an hour before the arrival of the carcasses. After pre-washing and sanitizing with chlorinated water at 0 to 3 degrees Celsius, the carcasses are transferred to the pre-cooled holding room.
After the initial process, all items are then stored in a freezer. Warehousemen will then prepare the orders from each store, all done under a room temperature of 10 degrees. Ordered items will then be stored in the anteroom, cooled to 10 degrees Celsius. An assigned personnel regularly monitors the temperature of all products in the storage area. Proper storing of products in crates and proper spacing per crate is strictly monitored to ensure that there is a balanced cool airflow inside the room.
During the dispatching process, items are checked by the dispatcher, drivers and crew to make sure that items declared on the document have the same weight as that of the actual product. This process happens in a temperature-controlled room, pre-cooled prior to the actual dispatch.
Prior to loading, trucks are pre-cooled up to 4 degree Celsius. Products are then carefully transferred to the trucks. During the trip, the temperature of the truck’s refrigeration is monitored through a GPS system with random checks by the staff during the entire trip.
When the products reach the retail outlets, stocks are placed in a 6-door storage chiller freezer, while items for selling are displayed in 3-door freezers to maintain the cold chain process.
RDF facilities from production to delivery and retail outlets are all owned and operated by the company. Customers can be assured that RDF has control in every part of the cold chain process. RDF has also Quality Assurance field representatives to regularly check the products sold in the stores.
The cold chain process is very important for consumers to ensure their safety when buying meat products. Perishable goods are temperature sensitive, any inturruption in the process will greatly affect the quality of the product. The cold chain process reaffirms RDF’s commitment to the consumers of bringing safe and quality food to their tables.