Refrigeration of meat and eggs in the U.S. is an accepted part of our culture. As a consumer and former food processor, it is hard for me to imagine a food supply chain that isn't refrigerated. I realize that up until around 100 years ago there was no such thing as a mechanical refrigeration system. Back then, the cold chain consisted of ice houses and ice boxes. When the last of the winter ice melted, the best you could do was underground storage.
Articles in this issue present an illustration of how another step forward in cold chain technology, rapid cooling of shell eggs, might be used to help grow shell egg exports to countries that, somewhat ironically, still have widespread cultural acceptance of non-refrigerated meat and eggs. Consumers in China eat just over half of the world's pork output, and two-thirds of this pork is sold hot and fresh. The continued market dominance of hot and fresh meat and eggs in China presents somewhat of a market barrier for imported meat and egg products which have to be refrigerated or frozen to prevent spoilage and maintain quality.
The culture in China will need to change somewhat for consumers to understand the food safety and quality benefits provided by refrigeration. Consumers will need to be educated on the benefits of refrigerated meat and eggs. The culture will take time to change, but a desire to improve food safety ultimately will lead to development of a cold chain for meat and eggs. As the culture changes in China and the cold chain develops, techniques like rapid shell egg cooling might just help increase exports of U.S. eggs.
on March 13, 2014