As a retail category, meat has the same packaging requirements as any food product: attractiveness, convenience and, lately, sustainability. It also has some concerns that are unique, or at least especially prominent: ease of use and safety.

Case-ready packaging, the continued growth of cooked product, easy-open features and the elimination of foam trays are all ways the industry is looking to cope with these demands. As for safety, various forms of sensor technology can reassure consumers of cold chain integrity. Imparting information on labeling also is growing in importance, both to give consumers cooking tips and to inform them of nutritional attributes of meat that they might not be aware of. Attractive presentation extends to both raw product, through modified atmosphere packaging that keeps meat an appealing color, and cooked product, through packages like clear tubs and windowed cartons. As consumers’ time and cooking skills continue to diminish, cooked product with appropriate packaging will keep growing in importance.  F&BP

1. Tyson Foods Inc.

Tyson recently had a go-round with the federal government and competitors over no-antibiotic claims on its chicken labeling. At issue was a feed additive that, the government insisted, constitutes an antibiotic, invalidating the claim. Tyson removed the claim but sued the U.S. Department of Agriculture in June, asking to be allowed to reinstate it.

2. Cargill Meat Solutions

CMS is one of the foremost processors of meat in case-ready packaging. Its proprietary system of modified-atmosphere packaging, REDiFresh, used for case-ready beef patties, removes as much oxygen as possible from the retail package, maintaining fresh color and odor through a 21-day shelf life.

3. Smithfield Foods Inc.

Smithfield has been growing through acquisitions, including ConAgra’s Butterball and other refrigerated meat brands in 2006. Smithfield has maintained and expanded the Butterball line of refrigerated and processed meats in packaging that includes rigid, reusable tubs and paperboard cartons with windows.