Chilled meat [German version]

Table of contents

Product information
  Container transport
  Cargo securing

Risk factors and loss prevention:
Temperature Odor
Humidity/Moisture Contamination
Ventilation Mechanical influences
Biotic activity Toxicity / Hazards to health
Gases Shrinkage/Shortage
Self-heating / Spontaneous combustion Insect infestation / Diseases

Product information

Product name

German Fleisch, gekühlt, Kühlfleisch
English Chilled meat
French Viande refrigérée
Spanish Carne fria
CN/HS number * 02ff.

(* EU Combined Nomenclature/Harmonized System)

Product description

Meat consists of skeletal muscle tissue, including fatty, connective and bone tissue, originating from slaughtered, skinned and gutted animals. Frequently transported types of meat are: cattle (quarters of beef), pigs (sides of pork), calves, sheep and lambs (all whole). Boned chilled meat (portioned meat) is also vacuum packaged for storage and transport.

Chilled meat is also described as fresh meat because, when correctly chilled, it retains the characteristics of fresh meat. The greater or lesser degree of redness of meat is determined by its content of myoglobin (muscle pigment) which depends upon the species, breed, age and other factors.

The chemical composition of meat is as follows [8]:

water 49 – 75%
protein 15 – 21.5%
fat 3 – 35%
mineral salts 1 – 2%
carbohydrates (glycogen) 0.3 – 0.5%

The rapid perishability of meat is due to its high protein and water content and its fat content. Since fresh meat may rapidly become unfit for consumption due to biochemical and microbiological changes, it is only ever transported as chilled or frozen meat. Degradation processes are retarded by maintaining low temperatures.

Quality / Duration of storage

Meat is graded into 4 quality classes:

Meat is graded into 4 quality classes:

1st quality: e.g. rib roast (beef), rib and ham (pork), leg (veal), saddle and leg (lamb)
2nd quality: e.g. central breast (beef), chine and breast (pork), saddle and chine (veal), shoulder (lamb)
3rd quality: e.g. brisket and chine (beef), belly (pork), neck and belly (veal), neck and breast (lamb)
4th quality: e.g. skirt (beef), head (pork), head (veal)

Chilled meat must not exhibit any degradation in quality as a result of spoilage due to microorganisms or autolysis. It must be in a freshly slaughtered state. Soft, discolored and musty-smelling meat must be rejected before loading.

The maximum duration of storage of chilled meat is primarily determined by maintenance of the correct chilling temperature. According to [6], the chilling temperature should be between -0.75 and -1.25°C at a relative humidity of 80 – 85%, conditions which ensure a storage life of 1 – 2 weeks. Excessively high temperatures very rapidly result in spoilage.

In [2] the maximum duration of storage at a temperature of 0 – 2°C is stated to be 8 – 10 days. Vacuum packaging can extend this period to up to 30 days. A further increase in duration of storage may be achieved by establishing a CO2 content of approx. 10 – 12% in the hold/container, so greatly limiting mold growth and bacteriological spoilage.

During extended voyages (e.g. transport of beef from Argentina to Europe), the chilled meat „ages“ and so reaches optimum quality.

Intended use

Meat is a versatile source of nutrition, being boiled, fried/roasted, salted, smoked or processed into sausage.

Countries of origin

This Table shows only a selection of the most important countries of origin and should not be thought of as exhaustive.

Europe Sweden, Denmark, Germany, Netherlands, Belgium, France, Switzerland, Austria, Ireland, Romania, Bulgaria, Italy, England
Asia China
America Argentina, Paraguay, Brazil, USA
Australia New Zealand, Australia

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Chilled meat is transported as quarters of beef, sides of pork or whole calf, sheep and lamb carcasses and is usually packaged as follows:
Quarters of beef: in plastic bag and stockinette (protective covering made, for example, from linen).
Sides of pork: in stockinette
Sheep, whole carcass: in plastic bag and stockinette
Boned portions: wrapped in film and then packaged in cartons
Boned portions of chilled meat: vacuum-packaged in cartons

In the case of meat packaged in cartons, packaging sizes should be so selected that the dimensions of the individual area modules or area module multiples are conformed to the conventional pallet sizes (800×1200 mm and 1000×1200 mm) and cargo units may thus be produced.

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Symbol, general cargo

General cargo
Symbol, temperature-controlled


Means of transport

Ship, truck, railroad, aircraft

Container transport

Refrigerated containers should be used.

Cargo handling

It is essential to maintain the cold chain during cargo handling as this is the only way to maintain the storage life and quality of the chilled meat.

In damp weather (rain, snow), the cargo must be protected from moisture, since this may result in increased activity of microorganisms and thus limit the duration of storage.

Stowage factor

Approx. 1 m3/t (cartons) [1]
Approx. 2.80 – 3.56 m3/t (sides of pork) [1]

Stowage space requirements

Cool, dry, odor-free


Fiber rope, thin fiber nets, wooden laths

Cargo securing

Quarters of beef, sides of pork, lambs etc. are transported suspended on hooks by their hind legs as the pressure caused by stacking would result in loss of meat juices (drip).

Drawing, hams

Figure 1

If meat is transported in cartons, the packages must be stowed and secured in the means of transport in such a manner that they cannot slip or shift during transport. They must not be damaged by other articles or items of cargo.

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Risk factors and loss prevention

RF Temperature

Chilled meat requires particular temperature, humidity/moisture and ventilation conditions (SC VII) (storage climate conditions).

A written cooling order must be obtained from the consignor before loading is begun. This order must always be complied with during the entire transport chain.

The following Table merely constitutes a rough estimate of appropriate temperature ranges. Temperatures may deviate from these values, depending on the particular transport conditions.

Designation Temperature range Source
Travel temperature
(favorable temperature range)
0 – 2°C [2]
-0.75 – -1.25°C [6]
0 – -1°C [9]
-1.5°C [19]

The aims of chilling are as follows:

to inhibit autolytic changes
to prevent spoilage due to microorganisms
to retain the freshly slaughtered state

After slaughter/jointing of the animals, the core temperature must be adjusted to 4 – 7°C, a process which takes approx. 48 hours and must be complete before the meat is transportable.

Only the outer layer (to a depth of 1 – 2 cm) may thus be frozen. If the temperature is too low (it must never fall below -2°C), the cell juices freeze and ice crystals form which destroy the cell walls. As a result, the meat loses cell juices on thawing and can no longer be described as freshly slaughtered.

Chilled meat undergoes very rapid spoilage at excessively high storage temperatures.

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RF Humidity/Moisture

Chilled meat requires particular temperature, humidity/moisture and ventilation conditions (SC VII) (storage climate conditions).

Designation Humidity/water content Source
Relative humidity approx. 80 – 85% [1]
Water content 49 – 75% [1]
Maximum equilibrium moisture content approx. 80% [1]

Due to its high content of unfrozen water, chilled meat can only be considered for short transport operations as enzymatic and bacterial activity may continue slowly.

Relative humidity should, if possible, be maintained as lower values result in increased weight losses due to drying, while higher values would increase the activity of microorganisms.

Meat must be protected from all forms of moisture (seawater, rain and condensation water), since this may result in increased activity of microorganisms and thus limit the duration of storage.

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RF Ventilation

Chilled meat requires particular temperature, humidity/moisture and ventilation conditions (SC VII) (storage climate conditions).

Recommended ventilation conditions: circulating air, 6 circulations/hour without supply of fresh air in order to ensure uniform cooling of all parts of the cargo.

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RF Biotic activity

Chilled meat displays 3rd order biotic activity.

It belongs to the class of goods in which respiration processes are suspended, but in which biochemical, microbial and other decomposition processes, which must be taken into account, still proceed.

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RF Gases

In order to increase the storage life of chilled meat on extended voyages, the hold/container atmosphere should have a CO2 content of approx. 10 – 12%, so in particular suppressing surface growth of aerobic molds and limiting bacteriological spoilage and bringing about an overall reduction in the rate of biological breakdown processes. A higher CO2 content, however, results in more rapid browning of the meat and graying of the fat.

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RF Self-heating / Spontaneous combustion

This risk factor has no significant influence on the transport of this product.

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RF Odor

Active behavior Chilled meat has a very slight, unpleasant odor. Vacuum-packaged chilled meat is odorless.
Passive behavior Chilled meat is very highly sensitive to foreign odors and absorbs them very rapidly. It should thus, in particular, not be stored together with fish, citrus and other fruit and the like. However, meat from different animal species may also cause mutual odor-tainting, except in the case of vacuum-packaged meat.

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RF Contamination

Active behavior Chilled meat does not cause contamination.
Passive behavior Unpackaged chilled meat is very sensitive to contamination. Holds/containers must therefore be clean and in a thoroughly hygienic condition.

Photo, meat

Figure 2
Photo, meat

Figure 3

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RF Mechanical influences

Quarters of beef, sides of pork, lambs etc. are transported suspended on hooks as the pressure caused by stacking would result in loss of meat juices.

Meat packaged in cartons must be secured in the hold or container in such a way that it cannot move during transport. In the case of container transport, it is also important for the goods to be secured in the door area so that they cannot fall out of the container when the doors are opened.

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RF Toxicity / Hazards to health

Meat which is unfit for consumption may constitute a hazard to health due to the possible changes stated in RF Insect infestation/Diseases as a result of the formation of toxins.

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RF Shrinkage/Shortage

A weight loss of approx. 2% occurs between slaughter and the beginning of transport (approx. 2 days), while drying during transport may result in a further weight loss of 0.5 – 1%. This does not apply to vacuum-packaged meat.

Transporting chilled meat in cartons increases the risk of theft.

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RF Insect infestation / Diseases

After slaughter, meat is subject to biochemical and microbial changes, which are also known as postmortem changes.

Biochemical changes are the first to occur. Autolysis (self-digestion) may be caused by enzymes within the meat and takes the form of „putrefaction“ resulting in softening and greenish discoloration of the meat which becomes unfit for consumption. Autolysis is the prerequisite for microbial decomposition.

One type of bacterial spoilage which may be mentioned is psychrophilic spoilage, which may be caused by psychrophilic bacteria in the cold store atmosphere. Such organisms form coffee-brown to yellowish colonies on the surface of the meat and, being fluorescent or flavobacteria, may also luminesce. This type of spoilage is caused by unhygienic slaughtering and the bacteria continue to grow at chilling temperatures.

Molds may also colonize poorly cleaned areas, with the abdominal muscles, shoulder blades and neck area being at particular risk. Affected meat develops a musty odor. Mold, which has a soft, velvety texture to the touch may be confused with fat grains (which have a greasy texture) or frost (which disappears when touched).

As a basic principle, a veterinary certificate is required for transport operations.

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