Fresh ground-beef patties processed with a further-developed existing technology can double the shelf life of the burgers but hold onto the taste consumers expect. Fressure beef patties from food processor Cargill benefit from enhanced food safety without sacrificing flavor, according to the company.

Minneapolis-based Cargill focused its research efforts on making high pressure processing commercially viable for ground-beef patties to increase their shelf life from 21 to 42 days, which is double the industry standard. The technology has become feasible for widespread commercial use with certain foods such as avocados, which allows consumers to enjoy pre-made guacamole from grocery stores. High pressure processing is natural and does not use high temperatures, chemicals or irradiation, yet it retains nutrient value and freshness.

The technology has long been considered a desirable method for producing fresh safe food, according to Cargill, diminishing the likelihood of contamination from many food-borne pathogens such as E. coli O157:H7, Listeria monocytogenes and pathogenic Salmonella sp. as well as microorganisms that can cause spoilage. The process does not interfere with taste, texture, color and nutrient value.

Typical fresh-ground beef patties start showing changes in flavor toward the latter part of their shelf life. These flavor changes are due to the growth of spoilage bacteria that cause sour or tangy traits. Retail operations that are aware of the flavor gap occurring within the shelf life of traditional fresh beef patties may discard product during that time period so consumers will not have a bad eating experience.

Fressure patties remain fresh throughout the shelf life so retail operators can serve the product knowing the flavor has not been compromised, Cargill says, which reduces waste.

 "High-pressure processing of foods is a well-established treatment to mitigate contamination," says to Michael P. Doyle, Ph.D., a food-safety expert from the Center for Food Safety at the University of Georgia in Athens, Ga.

How It Works

Products packaged via high pressure processing are placed inside a pressure chamber and water is added before sealing the chamber. The chamber is programmed to increase the pressure to the maximum desirable level and sustain it for a set period of time. Next, the chamber is decompressed and drained, and the products are removed. Because pressure is applied equally on all areas of a product, the packaging is not damaged nor is the product crushed.

The pressure reduces food-borne pathogens and other harmful microorganisms because it is forceful enough to significantly disrupt cellular activity. The process occurs when products are in the final packaging stage, which eliminates the possibility of recontamination prior to shipment.

"The process enabling Cargill to produce Fressure patties is a technological break-through that allows us to provide our customers, as well as consumers, with a premium ground beef option that is superior, in a number of ways, to any in the marketplace today," says Brent Wolke, vice president for Cargill’s Wichita, Kan.-based foodservice meat business. Wolke says that perfecting the process took Cargill years of research and development. Fressure ground beef patties are being produced at Cargill’s Columbus, Neb., meat-processing facility.