Why do we vacuum seal our meat?
Good things sometimes come in unusual packages. Take, for example, the vacuum-sealed packaging that might have caught your eye at Great Lakes Custom Meats and More. Traditionally vacuum-sealed packaging has been used to keep cured meats like bacon and hot dogs fresh. Using this type of packaging for fresh meat is just catching on in the US, although it has been widely used in Europe for some time. We use vacuum packaging for the many benefits that it brings.
All meat packaging and refrigeration is designed to protect against exposure to oxygen and heat that breed the bacteria that cause spoilage. Keeping meat chilled and wrapping it in plastic film only addresses half the problem, as traditional plastic wraps allow oxygen to permeate the package. Vacuum-sealed packaging does a better job of keeping meat fresh because it removes most of the oxygen, which slows the growth of bacteria.
One of the benefits of vacuum-sealed packaging is that it gives you the freedom to cook your meat according to your own timetable. Because oxygen is removed, the shelf life of vacuum-sealed red meat increases from a matter of days to at least two weeks. The extended shelf life means you rarely ever have to throw anything away due to spoilage. Even ground beef, which typically needs to be used within a day or two of purchase, can last twice as long in the vacuum packaging.
Just like you don’t have to throw away product at home, GLCM does not have to throw away product at the store. Meat that has to be thrown out represents a huge loss of time and energy. Though the longer shelf life means you don’t have to freeze your meats right away to keep them from going bad, freezing is still a great option when you want to stock up. Vacuum-sealed packaging is perfect for the freezer as the lack of oxygen on the surface of the meat prevents freezer burn and eliminates the need for freezer bags or other additional preparation.
Another advantage to the vacuum-sealed packaging is the lack of messy drippy meat juice that is associated with conventional packaging. All liquids are sealed in place, so there's no need to wrap your meat in additional plastic bags. This not only minimizes the potential for cross-contamination with other foods, it also keeps more plastic bags out of the waste stream.
Meat that is packaged in vacuum packaging does not have the same bright red color that it has when packaged conventionally. This bright red color is caused by exposure to oxygen, meaning that juicy chop wrapped in traditional plastic film is already beginning to spoil. The darker hue of vacuum-sealed meat is visual proof that the product is protected from oxygen. Once the package is opened and the meat exposed to air, it will redden to the usual color. We think you will find the small cosmetic change in meat color is unimportant compared to the benefit in freshness and quality.
It’s important to note that we are strenuously avoiding techniques employed by some other supermarkets to inject gas into meat packaging to create a bright red color in packaged meat. Thinking that consumers will refuse to buy meat that it not bright red has led to the practice of packaging meats with carbon dioxide, nitrogen, and carbon monoxide to alter the color. Most retailers using the gas method do not put this info on their labels. We believe that this constitutes an unnatural and unnecessary additive, and in some cases actually diminishes the quality of the meat. No gas of any type is used in our packaging methods.