On the 6 and 7th of June the Cold Chain Management Conference was held in Bonn. The REFRESH team presented about food waste reducing innovations in the meat supply chain at the conference. The conference brings academia together with industry and public organisations to discuss about issues in the cold supply chain.

'Dynamic shelf life' to reduce meat waste

In the research presented at the Cold Chain Conference, we worked with a ‘dynamic’ shelf life to see if that can be helpful in order to reduce food waste. Meat is a highly perishable product; it spoils relatively fast and after spoilage food safety is at stake. A use-by date gives information to consumers about the point of spoilage. Usually shelf life is set on the safe side, to sell safe products to consumers. This conservative shelf life determination will result in unnecessary waste at retailers, as products might still be good when they are thrown away. When we think about food waste reduction, many actions can be thought of. 

A ‘dynamic’ shelf life, in contrast, can be considered as a shelf life which is adjustable to the actual product quality and might be possible by using Time Temperature Integrators (TTIs). TTI’s are capable of detecting and showing temperature variations during a products life time. With a computer model the effect of using such a ‘dynamic’ shelf life is tested and results are promising.

REFRESH findings show 'dynamic shelf life' can be an improvement over a 'fixed' shelf-life 

With a ‘dynamic’ shelf life it is possible to deal with the temperature variations in the supply chain much more accurately than with the current situation (a fixed, printed date on a package). When temperatures are higher than expected a meat product will spoil much faster and a retailer will end up selling products which aren’t safe anymore. On the other hand, when temperatures are lower than expected, many products might be thrown away before they are spoiled. By adjusting the shelf life to the actual temperature variations in a chain, retailers can be assured that the products they sell are safe and products that are wasted are indeed spoiled.