In an environment in which processors earn a high grade by delivering high quality, consistent and safe meat, poultry and seafood products, the difference between a good mark and a failing one can be tied to temperature. Inconsistent temperatures may lead to pathogen growth, spoilage, and – eventually and potentially – product rejects, recalls or foodborne illness.
In the meat and poultry industry, carbon dioxide is used as a liquid for chilling bulk and portioned products, as a gas in modified atmosphere packaging and some bulk storage, and as a solid, in the form of dry ice pellets and blocks. Carbon dioxide has been a popular choice for chilling, in storage, transit and other functions in the plant-to-table chain because it is effective and non-poisonous.
To make the solid form, liquid CO2 is lowered to a temperature and a pressure to be flashed into snow or transformed to make a particular form, be it a pellet or slice.
Chilling via carbon dioxide snow is used for a variety of items. “It’s been predominately used in seafood and poultry, but is gaining market in ground beef and pork products,” says Phil Davis, associate director of communications at Praxair, Burr Ridge, Illinois.
Mark DiMaggio, head of food and beverage at Linde Americas, Bridgewater, New Jersey, notes that applications of cryogenic chilling with CO2 or liquid nitrogen span a variety of products. “Also, we’re installing these technologies for the large processors with multiple plant locations down to single plant processors.”
Another bonus of using CO2 snow on demand or liquid CO2 for chilling is its cost efficiency in the broader analysis. “It’s a comparatively inexpensive adaption of technology. For a processor looking at their balance sheet and managing capital, this isn’t a hurdle. Many times you receive a payback that can be monetized, as the investment provides a return through labor redeployment and improvement of product quality and safety,” points out DiMaggio.