Processing technologies: New approach to chilled meat handling, aging

Beef Central, 13/04/2016

NEW Zealand technology company, FoodCap has developed a new approach to chilled meat material handling which it is preparing to launch on the world stage at next month’s IFFA meat industry trade show in Frankfurt, Germany.

The FoodCap primal handling system is a reusable bulk chilled meat handling system for buffering, storage, ageing, and transport of red and white meat between primal and case-ready processing lines.

At the heart of the system is the FoodCap, a meat storage capsule.  The FoodCap is robust and seals completely to maintain a modified atmosphere where oxygen is excluded, preventing microbial growth and product deterioration.

Foodcap 1

Primal bone-in lamb cuts being loaded into a FoodCap capsule

FoodCap CEO Julian Beavis describes the technology as “revolutionary” for primal chilled meat processors.

“The capsule is essentially the vacuum pack and transportation device all in one, eliminating the need for single-use packaging,” he said.

Each capsure stores 110kg to 160kg of meat, either bone in or bone out, meaning greater efficiencies on the production line as well as in storage and handling, Mr Beavis said.

The FoodCap primal handling system is designed to integrate with automated storage and retrieval systems for efficient and accurate handling and inventory management, although it also has the flexibility to be used without automation if required.


There are two versions of the system, used for different applications:

  • The P1 (Primal Compression System) is used only for boneless product or trim.  Primal cuts or trim are stacked directly into the capsule, without the use of shelves.  Compression is applied to remove air from between the cuts (reducing surface area exposed to the air and making the meat act like one large piece).  It is then sealed, vacuumed and gas flushed to exclude oxygen.
  • The P2 (Deep Vacuum and Gas Flush System) can be used for both bone-in and boneless product.  This is the system shown in the picture above, where cuts of meat are stacked on shelves to prevent the product from being compressed during storage.  The shelving system is then completely lowered into the capsule.  The capsule is sealed, vacuumed to remove oxygen and flushed with a modified atmosphere.

The new technology has been scientifically verified by independent research and development company, Carne Technologies.

Extensive meat science trials have been carried out on beef, lamb, pork and chicken, providing direct comparison between the FoodCap system and conventional vacuum packaging.  Across all species the FoodCap system provided outstanding exclusion of oxygen, low microbial growth and extended storage times.

Commercial installations already in NZ, China

The system has already been commercially proven, with installations currently operating in meat processing plants in New Zealand and China.

FoodCap’s technology was originally developed as a central processing supply chain for high velocity production and distribution of case-ready meat to supermarkets.

New Zealand grocery company Progressive Enterprises, servicing the national needs of the Woolworths supermarket chain, uses the technology in its centralised multi-species meat processing and packing plants in Auckland, which has to date produced more than 400 million consumer packs of chilled meat.

Big savings in packaging materials

FoodCap capsules stacked for efficent storage and retrieval

FoodCap capsules stacked for efficent storage and retrieval

With the plant producing up to 120,000 consumer packs of meat per day, the FoodCap system has eliminated more than 100 million cartons and 110 million vacuum bags that would otherwise have been used in a traditional supply chain.

In 2015, FoodCap installed their technology for Chinese company Little Sheep Meat Industry Co, in their primal lamb processing operation in Bayannur, Inner Mongolia, as part of a project to convert the plant from a frozen to a fresh chilled operation.

Chairman and founder of Little Sheep, Zhang Gang, said his team had scoured the world for three years looking for innovations that would lead to a competitive advantage in the extremely dynamic Chinese marketplace.

“We found such an innovation in the FoodCap Primal Handling technology from New Zealand, a country famed for its fresh chilled meat production and handling,” he said.

“FoodCap not only introduced Little Sheep to their unique chilled material handling system, they introduced us also to a range of specialist companies and technologies which collectively delivered us a world class chilled lamb processing operation.”

Four years of research and development has seen the development of the new primal handling system, which is being launched at the IFFA Expo, the world’s largest meat equipment event, in Frankfurt. This has included further refinement of the original technology, ensuring reliability of operation and ease of application.

“We know we now have a system that is proven to provide a range of benefits, from extending shelf-life and improving food safety, to decreasing manual handling and production costs,” Mr Beavis said.

  • Click here to view a flow chart of how the FoodCap system works in a typical processing plant application
The primal handling system integrates with this fully automated capsule storage and retrieval system

The primal handling system integrates with this fully automated capsule storage and retrieval system


Source: FoodCap Meat Handling Systems


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  1. John Stewart, 05/08/2017

    Thank you Deb Newell for your comments of April 2016, only today many years after being involved with Roger I was saddened to hear of his passing however I fully agree with your brief comments.
    Having worked closely with Roger during his development period which spanned from his absolute commitment to the New Zealand farming industry I assisted him with respect the preparation of design drawings for many of his projects close to Omokoroa, as you probably new his interests ranged from his early days in dairy farming to the development of his small Kiwi Orchard and latterly the development of his automated pig farm which was the beginning of his international export interests.
    A true Kiwi to be associated with maybe well before his time however I am
    sure the Australian importers have now bought in!
    Thank you for your thoughts
    John Stewart Tauranga

  2. Paul D. Butler, 13/04/2016

    Good to hear the real story and about the innovative man behind such a system. Thanks Deb.

  3. deb newell, 13/04/2016

    Would have been good to have mentioned the name of the man who invented this system and tried, in vain, to break the stranglehold of the cardboard carton packagers that have Woolies and Coles in a stranglehold. It is a brilliant system that could have revolutionised chill management and food security/health protocols in Australia as it has done in NZ but the heads of Woolworths and Coles at that time weren’t up for innovation. Roger Palmer died about 3 years ago, in Australia, never having managed to get Australian food industries to listen to him or realize the genius of his invention that went from moulded plastic containers that could be pressurised, gassed, stacked and stored in cold stores where he even designed the racking system. No need of palettes or cardboard boxes that could only be used once, so this system also answered all consumers concerns about environmental effort and costs. Germany will love this concept (as has NZ) because it is clean efficient and re-usable. Stupid Australia.

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