India’s meat firms urged to use new packaging technology

By Raghavendra Verma

- Last updated on GMT

India's new packaging system will markedly improve product shelf-life
India's new packaging system will markedly improve product shelf-life

Related tags: Buffalo meat, International trade, Export, United arab emirates, India

Indian meat processors are being advised to use new packing technology that promises to reduce their energy costs while transporting products, helping boost the country’s weak cold chain for fresh and chilled meat.

The Indian Institute of Packaging (IIP), based in Mumbai, claims to have developed a ‘modified atmosphere packaging’, which will allow meat to remain fresh at higher temperature for a longer period of time.

"At the chilled condition, that is 4°C, the life of goat and buffalo meat is not more than three to seven days, but by changing the mixture of gases in a sealed packing, this could be increased to 13 days,"​ Dr N C Saha, director of the institute, told GlobalMeatNews.

He said the system involved changing the mixture of nitrogen, oxygen and carbon dioxide, the three main constituents of air, within the packaging. For example, he said that, "instead of 78% nitrogen, as in the atmosphere we have taken it [down to] less than 70%"​.

The central government-owned institute, whose main aim is to improve the standard of packaging needed for the promotion of exports and create infrastructural facilities for overall packaging improvement in India, will rely on India’s Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA) to popularise the new technique.

APEDA has already been informing Indian exporters about the procedure. According to an APEDA briefing note, the new packaging system can prolong the shelf-life of food products by slowing down their normal respiration, and offers an affordable solution to meat traders seeking to ensure exported meats remains fresh within India’s domestic supply chain and for regional exports with shorter journeys.
According to international trade data, in 2014 India exported US$11.46 million-worth of frozen, fresh, chilled and preserved meat and edible meat offal to south Asian neighbours Pakistan, Nepal and Maldives. Exports to regional market the United Arab Emirates (UAE) were much higher at US$195m, including US$58m-worth of fresh or chilled sheep carcases and halves.

Official meat exports to Bangladesh have been negligible due to the large scale smuggling of live animals through porous land borders. However, with recently employed strict border controls this smuggling has been largely controlled, and it may prompt substantial formal export of chilled meats.

Indian meat exporters stressed to GlobalMeatNews​ that many overseas orders take longer than 13 days to deliver – with some exporters relying on frozen meat as a result. “All our shipments take at least 18 days and we always maintain a -18°C temperature for our meat,” said Mohammed Ather, chairman of the Delhi-based buffalo meat exporting Azan Group.

For these exports, APEDA’s manual for Indian red meat producers says packed cartons of deboned meat should be frozen at -40°C for 10 to 12 hours, before being shifted to cold storage.

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