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Light and Meat
Studies of Pork Shelf Life in Refrigerated Grocery Store Meat Cabinets

Studies of Pork Shelf Life.Early studies of pork suggested that surface temperature is a more important factor than exposure to light for the discoloration of pork and the growth of microorganisms on pork displays in refrigerated grocery store meat cabinets. However, the surface temperature of pork has been found to increase proportionately with the intensity of the lighting, regardless of whether the lamp is an incandescent or a cool white fluorescent lamp.

With all meat, even slight increases in surface temperatures accelerate oxidation and allow bacteria to grow exponentially, causing the meat to turn brown and to decompose. Later studies have shown that even with the lower levels of myoglobin in pork as compared to beef, pork is still sensitive to the oxidizing effects of light and will become discolored, turning brown or grey, after prolonged exposure to light and UV radiation, impacting sales even though this color change is not as dramatic as it is in cuts of beef.

The ideal storage temperature for pork is -1°C (30°F) for unwrapped meat or -1.5°C for wrapped meat, as the water within the muscle does not freeze substantially until -2°C, but spoilage bacteria grows slowly at -3°C with increasing rates as the temperature rises. With every temperature degree higher than the optimal storage temperature, shelf life is reduced by at least 10%. Therefore tiny temperature changes can drastically affect fresh pork shelf life; meat kept at -1.5°C will last twice as long as meat stored at 2°C.

In one study, more than thirty percent of pork cuts stored at 2°C and 5°C were judged to be unacceptable after being displayed for 24 to 30 hours, as compared to only 15% of pork stored at -1.5°C. Studies have found that surface temperatures of pork loin roasts are often at 10°C, and can vary from 4 to 25°C higher than the temperature of the refrigerated display case. Discoloration occurred more quickly for pork chops displayed under cool incandescent flood lights than pork displayed under other types of lights, in part because the intensity of the lighting increased the surface temperature by 3 to 14°F.

High temperatures affect pork in two ways. First, they contribute to the growth of microorganisms and discoloration. Second, pork fats are vulnerable to lipid oxidation leading to rancidity, which can occur when the pork is subjected to abusively high temperatures.

PROMOLUX True Color Definition Lamps and LEDs

PROMOLUX Safe Spectrum balanced full spectrum fluorescent lamps and LEDs emit lower levels of heat and ultraviolet radiation than regular supermarket fluorescent lamps, thus reducing the rate of pork 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.

Because 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 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.

It is impossible to create a natural light that does not have any yellow or green wavelengths, so light sources will always be damaging to some extent. However, in a study conducted by the University of Zaragoza, meat that was displayed under PROMOLUX low UV balanced spectrum lamps stayed nearly as fresh as meat kept in the dark, while meat that was displayed under regular fluorescent lighting quickly turned brown and began to decompose.


Pork color was found to be a major consideration for consumers in their decision to buy pork cuts. Consumers tended to avoid pale and wet pork, preferring cuts that were medium or dark pink and then within that category preferring the dryer cuts. <more...>

Studies have found that pork shelf life is limited more by the development of a brown or grey color, which develops long before the meat has spoiled, than by any other factor. For pork, this discoloration is accelerated by increased surface temperatures which can result from using meat display lighting that emits large quantities of UV and harmful visible spectrum radiation. <more...>

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