WICHITA, Kan. – On Feb. 14, Cargill announced it has evolved and perfected an existing food processing technology to create Fressure fresh ground beef patties, which offers double the shelf-life of traditional fresh burgers, benefit from enhanced food safety while also providing optimal flavor and a consistent high-quality eating experience.

The company is employing this company-developed, patent-pending process technology to produce fresh ground beef patties for the foodservice market. Product is treated by American Pasteurization Company (APC), which claims to be the first company in the United States to offer high-pressure processing (HPP) on a commercial tolling basis.

APC was founded in June, 2004. The ownership group is made up of experienced food industry leaders with extensive experience in proteins, fruits and vegetables, which includes Justin Segel who was the president of Emmpak Foods, which was acquired by Cargill in 2001.

Cargill focused research efforts on making high-pressure processing commercially viable for ground beef patties. Its efforts were inspired by the need to find an improved premium ground beef patty solution for customers, resulting in the doubling of shelf-life from 21 to 42 days, preservation of the beef's optimal flavor and diminishing bacteria that cause food borne illness and spoilage. This entirely natural process does not use high temperatures, chemicals or irradiation, while retaining the nutrient value and freshness of the ground beef, the company said.

Here’s how the process works, according to APC’s website. Food products, usually in their final consumer packaging, are placed in a cylindrical pressure vessel. Water is added, and the vessel is closed. The vessel contents are pressurized at levels up to 87,000 psi (600) MPa. Once the maximum required pressure is achieved, it is sustained for a specified period.

At these pressures, water can be compressed by up to 15%. The pressure that is exerted does not crush the product because its hydrostatic pressure, or pressure is applied equally in all directions. Foodborne pathogens and other organisms causing spoilage can not survive the pressure. The pressure interrupts their cellular activities, and they die.

During the pressurization phase there is a temporary generation of heat, called adiabatic heat. For every 100 MPa of pressure, the temperature inside the vessel is raised by approximately 3°C (37° F). Even at the highest level of pressure the total adiabatic heat effect is considerably less then the heat generated by using traditional heat pasteurization.

Once the programmed pressure is obtained, the pressure is maintained for a predetermined set amount of time. After the hold time, the vessel is decompressed. The pressure falls quickly and the adiabatic heat dissipates. The system process is PC-controlled and critical process points, such as pressure attained and hold times are monitored and documented for process verification.

Treated food products are removed and sent to the pack off area. At the pack off area numerous functions can be performed based on the requirements of the customer. Functions such as product dry off, label application, ink jetting, box making and packing, bar coding, palletizing, shrink wrapping, and preparation for shipment back to the customer or directly to their customer are performed.

Although how much Fressure product the machinery can produce and the capital expenditures amount on developing this process are both proprietary, a Cargill spokesman told MEAT&POULTRY, “Cargill has spent more than $1 billion on improvements to its meat facilities in the US over the past decade. Those improvements include equipment for food safety, improved efficiency, product innovation [NPD] and other aspects of our operations. Bringing Fressure to market required a multiyear investment in research and development for equipment and processes.”

This new product offering will be marketed as the "Fressure" brand, touting the benefits to the end-user: double the shelf-life of traditional fresh patties, enhanced food safety, retained flavor and consistency, the spokesman iterated. “The benefits extend to both fresh and frozen Fressure patties,” he added.

Fressure ground beef patties are being produced at Cargill's Columbus, Neb., meat processing facility. When asked if the company will incorporate this technology at any of its other plants, the spokesman answered, “Not at this time. However, as demand grows, we will consider expansion to other sites.”