Driven by these issues, the industry is moving away from pre-made shrink bags in favour of an on-machine vacuum flow-wrapping process that eliminates any product contact.
Processors are also looking to cut back on labour costs, as well as the high costs of the bag themselves, which requires the manually-intensive sequence of packing the meat and loading it into a vacuum chamber.
The manual handling of raw meat can also create a potential contamination hotspot in the process.
In a bid to tackle this, the new RotaVac system integrates Ilapak’s Delta 6000 flow wrapper with a rotary vacuum chamber that is optimised for different products.
This, said the firm, would allow manufacturers to use a more efficient, hygienic and labour-saving solution for packing red meat and cheese products using shrink rollstock.
Meat cuts are fed into the Delta 6000 flow-wrapper, which incorporates a full box motion sealing head for creating strong hermetic seals that can easily withstand a vacuum cycle.
Open-ended packs are then automatically loaded into a product-specific rotary vacuum chamber.
The company claimed the system could reduce labour by 60% versus a pre-made bag solution, as total integration dramatically reduced the need for any manual intervention.
“Now, rather than having to worry about linking machines from different suppliers, meat firms can simply ‘plug and play’ one or all of Ilapak’s modular Delta RotaVac pre-made bag replacement solutions via an Ethernet-based control platform,” said Luca Somaini, product manager at Ilapak.
“That means fewer operators and simplified installation, maintenance and support. Virtually every meat packer and processor wanting to pack fresh cuts in a vacuumed flow-wrap format still buys in pre-made shrink bags.
“However, we are seeing growing intent to move away from this labour-intensive and expensive approach, both on the grounds of cost and the food safety risks associated with the handling of fresh meat.”