Vacuum packaging guide

Vacuum packaging is an efficient way of packaging a variety of products. Vacuum packaging is used in commercial and residential applications to preserve food. It is considered a form of modified atmosphere packaging. This is any form of packaging where the atmosphere around the product is altered from the external atmosphere.

Benefits of vacuum packaging
Increased shelf life
  • Vacuum packaging can increase product shelf life from 50% to 400%.
  • It is the preferred form of packaging for many products going into long term freezer storage.
  • The proper vacuum bags can dramatically reduce freezer burn.
Vacuum bags give increased shelf life
Reduced product loss
  • Increased shelf life directly effects the reduction in product loss for companies inventorying products.
  • The reduced product loss helps to increase bottom lines.
Sealed barrier from external elements
  • The most common vacuum bag thickness is a 3 mill thickness with some bags up to a 6-8 mill thickness.
  • With the proper seal, vacuum packaging can protect products from dust, moisture, insects and a variety of other external elements that may harm or damage products.
  • Vacuum packaging is also an excellent barrier of protection against freezer burn during long term freezer storage.
Vacuum storage bags give a sealed barrier
Seals in flavors
  • Wet aging meats is a popular form of curing meat before preparing it.
  • This often uses natural juices from the meat with spices and flavors vacuum sealed to lock in flavors during the curing process.
No chemical preservatives required
  • Vacuum packaging eliminates the need for chemical preservatives.
  • Using the right mixture of oxygen to inert gas, products can last longer without the use of commonly used preservatives.
Improved product presentation
  • Vacuum bags are crystal clear allowing products within the packaging to be displayed on shelves.
Vacuum storage bags improve presentation
Efficient packaging
  • Vacuum sealing can be a very efficient process enabling hundreds or thousands of products to be sealed per hour.

Packaging meat can be tricky, different cuts and storage times require the right packaging to prevent spills and extend shelf life.

Large cuts of meat with inadequate packaging can puncture materials causing spills and accelerating spoilage rates. Longer freezer storage with insufficient packaging can quickly become freezer burnt and degrade food quality. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, approximately one-third of the food produced worldwide goes to waste. It is estimated that 20% of meat produced globally goes to waste. Seafood is higher at 35% waste.

Proper packaging methods to preserve food and reduce waste.
Which cuts of meat will be wrapped?The cut and type of meat being packaged are important in determining the right materials to use. Larger primal cuts require a thick film to prevent tears from bones. Smaller cuts and deli meats may not need thick materials for packaging due to shorter storage times. Whole chickens use different packaging materials and processes from whole fish.
How long will the meat be stored?Storage times are crucial for determining the right packaging material and process. Shorter storage times from market to home require lighter packaging materials versus heavier materials needed for longer storage times. Heavier packaging materials help to prevent freezer burn during long term freezer storage.
How many packages do you anticipate wrapping daily?If wrapping under 1000 packages daily, a manual or semi-auto machine should suffice. Over 1000 packages per daily should justify looking at higher speed machines. The initial cost may be more, but labor savings and efficiency over time will pay for the machine and then some.

Cuts of meat and packaging methods to consider:

  • Large primal cuts: Require thick packaging in excess of 5 mils.
  • Smaller pork and beef cuts: Overwrapping is a common packaging for smaller cuts or simple butcher paper and a label if coming from the store meat case.
  • Shrimp and fish: Use over wrapping when fresh. Use vacuum packaging for longer storage.
  • Poultry: Whole chickens and turkey are shrunk in using steam or water with poultry shrink bags. A lower cost alternative for short term storage can be overwrapping.
  • Whole loins: Large whole loins often use thick shrink bags and smaller pre-seasoned loins are packaged using thermoforming.
  • Processed meats: Processed meats use thermoforming and sometimes vacuum packaging. Ground sausage and beef use opaque food-grade poly bags that are long and narrow looking like a tube.
  • Bacon: Bacon uses thermoform, vacuum packaging. If buying from the store meat case, overwrapping is used for transport from the store to home.
  • Is vacuum packaging waterproof?
    Vacuum packaging can be used to secure items immersed in water. If vacuum packaging any products that could be exposed to water we recommend at least a 5 mm seal thickness. A vacuum bag is made to hold a vacuum inside the bag. It creates a barrier between the products and outside atmosphere. A standard poly bag will not hold a vacuum and over time will allow seepage.
  • Can vacuum packaging be be used to pack goods in transit?
    Vacuum packaging is great for shipping metal products. Water and humidity can cause rust on products. Creating a barrier between the product and exterior environment will help reduce or eliminate corrosion. The gas flushed vacuum packaging prevents all corrosion by modifying the atmosphere within the package.
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