Design and evaluation of a portable, nitrogen-refrigerated, jacketed container for storage and distribution of chilled meat

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Subbiah, Jeyamkondan
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The current meat distribution system is inefficient because packaging is done at both meat packer and retail level. Greater economies would be realized if retail packaging was done at the meat packer. Master packaging is suitable for centralized packaging because it yields suitable storage life and maintains the desirable red colour of the meat during storage and retail display. Master packaging of fresh meat with strict temperature control at $-$1.5$\sp{\circ}$C during distribution and storage gives a storage life up to 6 weeks. Inconsistent temperature control of meat within a narrow range just above freezing is a weak link in the current meat distribution system in North America. To improve the temperature control, a small-scale jacketed container was designed and evaluated for maintaining the temperature of pre-chilled meats. Tests were conducted with saline water bags, which thermally simulated the meat. Liquid nitrogen was injected in the jacket when the outside temperature was higher than $-$1.5$\sp{\circ}$C, and a heater was switched on when the outside temperature was lower than $-$1.5$\sp{\circ}$C. Based on the preliminary study, a full-size container of 200-300 kg meat capacity was then designed and tested at outside temperatures of $-$15, 0, 15, and 30$\ p{\circ}$C. Tests were conducted with retail packs of pork and beef. The target temperature was set at $-$1.0 $\pm$ 0.5$\sp{\circ}$C to prevent surface freezing of meat during extended storage periods, and an additional margin of $-$1.5 to $-$2.0$\sp{\circ}$C was allowed. Except the meat on the first (shelf) level of the container, the temperatures were maintained within the designed limits at outside temperatures of 0, 15, and 30$\sp{\circ}$C. Nitrogen consumption was 0.9, 2.4, and 4.3 kg/h at outside temperatures of 0, 15, and 30$\sp{\circ}$C, respectively. The maximum temperature of all 4 trials at $-$15$\sp{\circ}$C outside temperature was $-$0.2$\sp{\circ}$C.