New project to potentially extend meat shelf-life and reduce food waste


Campden BRI is looking for partners to help with new research that aims to revise established standards in order to improve the sustainability of red meat products. It could save producers and retailers millions of pounds in wasted food by updating specifications to reflect current meat production.

Campden BRI microbiologist Greg Jones, who is leading the project, said:
“Our new project will investigate whether existing standards for assessing shelf-life are in line with today’s production practices for red meats. When it comes to shelf-life, red meat products are renowned for being highly-perishable. Yet it’s quite possible that, due to advancements in the meat industry, current rejection thresholds for levels of microorganisms are set using standards that may not consider modern production methods, leading to significant food waste and cost. We’ll be undertaking microbiological and sensory testing to see if we can set more realistic standards, making this food more sustainable and potentially increasing shelf-life without compromising product safety.”

The scientists are looking for raw red meat producers, and retailers, to work with them on the project so that they can undertake investigations and analyses on a comprehensive range of products.

WRAP currently estimates that more than 380,000 tonnes of meat, worth £3 billion, is wasted in the UK each year from production through to the consumer – measuring more than 4 million tonnes in CO2 equivalents. Jones added: “The climate impact of red meat is enormous. Wasting this product wastes the energy that went into its production, so extending its shelf-life by even a day or two could help offset its environmental impact quite considerably.”

Currently, the majority of retailers apply microbiological specifications, as indicators of quality, to the raw red meat products (including beef and lamb) that they source from their suppliers. Feedback from producers suggests that the upper limits in these specifications may not currently reflect the increased maturation that red meats currently receive. Limits can potentially be exceeded even at the very start of shelf-life, despite the food being safe and organoleptically acceptable.

Jones continued:
“This suggests that the natural flora of red meat may already be at a higher level than that permitted by the specifications. If the evidence justifies a review of these specifications, by correlating sensory data with plate counts, the benefits to producers and retailers will be considerable, allowing safe food to be stored for a longer time. Consequently, it will also reduce environmental and financial impacts through reduced waste.”