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Light and Meat
Temperature Fluctuations in Fresh Beef Merchandisers

Spoilage bacteriaTemperature has a profound effect on bacterial growth, even for psychrotrophic bacteria that can grow at cold temperatures. Bacteria typically found on fresh beef at 5°C (41°F) will grow at twice the rate of bacteria at 1°C (33.8°F), while at 10°C (50°F) bacteria will grow at triple this rate, quickly reducing the shelf life of the beef. In one study, beef stored at 5°C (41°F) spoiled at three times the rate of beef stored at 0°C (32°F), while beef stored at 10°C (50°F) spoiled at five times that rate.

The Canadian Meat Packers Council recommends that internal meat temperatures should not exceed 39°F or 4°C, and several researchers have recommended that meat surface temperatures should be near the freezing point.

However, various studies have found that surface temperatures of displayed meat can vary from 25°F to 68°F (-5 °C to 20°C), with internal temperatures sometimes above 50°F or 10°C, and average steak surface temperatures 8 to 10°C higher than the ideal storage temperature recorded on the display case thermometer, sometimes fluctuating to 20° C higher particularly when the meat was exposed to meat display case lighting.Thermometer

Displayed ground beef temperatures have been measured at 8°C to 13°C (46°F to 56°F) in one study and ranged from more than 4°C to 25°C (39°F to 77°F) in other surveys.

Shelf life of beef stored in closed refrigerators at 1°C was 5 to 9 days in one study, and another found that rib steaks at 1°C maintained ideal colors for 9 days, but ideal colors lasted only 2.5 days when kept at 10°C.

Lighting sources are one of the major factors in increasing the surface temperature of beef steaks. Light radiation penetrates clear packaging and is absorbed by the meat as heat, forming a greenhouse effect in which the heat becomes trapped beneath the wrapping, often raising meat surface temperatures far beyond recommended storage temperatures and thereby creating an environment ideal for exponential bacterial growth.

Controlling the surface temperature of beef through low-UV lighting sources is important to prevent exponential bacteria growth, discoloration, and spoilage. Processing beef with sanitized cutting methods and maintaining low display temperatures (1°C) have been found to result in longer shelf life and less discoloration.

Other studies have revealed that even frozen beef displayed at -25°C will discolor as the myoglobin continues to oxidize under display case lighting. Temperature tends to be the most significant instigator of myoglobin oxidation in fresh meat, while for frozen meat the oxidation is light-induced.

PROMOLUX True Color Definition Lamps and LEDs

Deli equipment display lightingPROMOLUX balanced spectrum fluorescent lamps and LEDs emit lower levels of heat and ultraviolet radiation than regular grocery store fluorescent lamps, thus reducing the rate of meat decomposition. Compared to other fluorescent lighting, PROMOLUX lamps emit 86% lower UV B radiation, a shorter wavelength that penetrates and causes heating, and 52% lower UV A radiation, a longer wavelength that tends to affect surfaces.

Promolux lamps have a balanced spectrumBecause PROMOLUX lamps and LEDs are designed for true color definition, they have a more balanced visible spectrum than other fluorescent lamps. The yellow and green wavelengths that are predominant in regular fluorescent lighting are the most damaging wavelengths in the visible spectrum. PROMOLUX lamps and LEDs emit a more balanced range of wavelengths, including more of the red and blue wavelengths and more moderate levels of the yellow and green wavelengths.

This balance ensures that beef maintains its cherry red bloom while its fat and marbling are displayed in their true colors, rather than appearing brownish with yellowed or pink fat which often is the case with regular meat display lighting.

Consumers judge the freshness of meat by its color, but many lighting sources distort true colors. <more...>

The color of fresh meat is determined by the pigment myoglobin, which undergoes various chemical reactions to form other pigments. These reactions are triggered by light, heat, and oxygen availability. <more...>

The growth of bacteria leads to meat spoilage. Most display case lighting emits radiation which raises meat surface temperatures even in refrigerated display cases, leading to exponential bacterial growth. <more...>

Meat that doesn’t sell can be sold more cheaply by rewrapping it, such as grinding it, marinating it, or even cooking it, but this still represents a loss in terms of additional labor costs and realizing a smaller profit. <more...>

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