Importance of shelf-life

MEAT MATTERS

by James Ruggeri, Industry Development Executive, HCC

At the recent FUW conference in Builth Wells, my colleague Deanna Leven’s presentation on red meat exports led to an interesting discussion on the importance of shelf‐life. Improving the shelf‐life of Welsh Lamb could help to give our products a competitive edge. Other lamb‐exporting countries have spent a great deal of effort on this, leading to some New Zealand lamb achieving a shelf‐life of up to 100 days. This aspect will only become more important for us all in the Welsh Lamb industry as we look to build new export markets beyond Europe; for instance in north America, the Middle East and Asia. It’s this concern to maintain and improve shelf‐life which has led to recent decisions by some abattoirs to insist that lambs must be bellied before entering the processing line. While numerous factors help to achieve a long shelf‐life, the one that has the biggest impact is the level of cleanliness that is maintained throughout the supply chain. Hygienic practices, along with good temperature control once the animal has been slaughtered, helps to keep microbial contamination to an absolute minimum. With the deterioration of the weather in autumn and longer fleeces, lambs may now be getting dirtier on farm which, in turn, can cause contamination within the factory when lambs aren’t presented in an appropriate condition. In practical terms, clipping belly wool should be delayed until lambs are fit for sale ‐ and they should be kept on clean, dry bedding after clipping. PGI Welsh Lamb is a respected product with a strong following in the UK and in many export markets. However paying greater attention to shelf‐life can give us a greater competitive advantage, and help to improve profitability for the whole supply chain. HCC works with many partners in the industry on improving shelf‐life. A short factsheet, as well as more detailed information on maximising the value of the carcase, is available on our website: www.hccmpw.org.uk

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