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6.1 Packaging and Transport

The type of packaging used for charque and carne-de-sol depends on the consumer market to which the products are destined, the transport mode employed and the distances carried.

In the less sophisticated and often less demanding markets of the north and north-east of Brazil, carne-de-sol and charque are usually sold without prior packaging. This facilitates customer judgement of product which is usually sensorial (touch and smell).

Carne-de-sol is normally distributed to market sites in 30–50 kg loads wrapped in jute sacks and trussed tightly using strong cord. Because the product still contains a high proportion of its original water content, some drip loss will occur during distribution and this must be allowed to drain freely from the product. For this reason plastic sacks are not suitable.

Upon arrival at the market the meat is removed from its wrapping and displayed uncovered.

Charque is usually transported to market sites in open lorries in the form of 50–60 kg bales packaged in sackcloth of jute. The bales are protected with a covering of waterproof canvas. As in the case of carne-de-sol, charque is usually removed from its wrapping and displayed uncovered in the meat markets.

Increasing use is being made of meat presses to prepare charque for transport (see Figure 15). The pressed form is more attractive and can be easily stored and loaded, thus reducing storage space and lowering transport costs. In large throughput plants, the 20–50 kg pressed pieces are vacuum packed in nylon/polythene laminate film to further extend shelf life and protect the product from chemical changes and physical damage during distribution. The combination of pressing and packing in air and water-proof film effectively reduces oxidative changes in the product greatly improving appearance and sensorial quality.

The lipolytic changes which occur in the presence of oxygen are particularly severe at high storage temperatures.

Figure 15.

Figure 15. Press used to prepare charque for transport.

The practice of packaging retail sized portions of charque in vacuum pouch packages of 500 g or 1 kilogram has been successfully employed but production and investment costs are high. These costs are off-set by improved hygiene, better appearance and more especially through increased yield since marginally higher product water levels may be envisaged without subsequent loss of shelf life.

Charque should not be packaged in cold or damp rooms which cause water to condense on the meat surface.

6.2 Hygiene Considerations

Carne-de-sol is a highly perishable product which is subject to rapid processing and requires early consumption. The factors effecting quality and shelf life of this product are very similar to those governing fresh meat.

Of major importance is the quality of the raw materials used. Abnormally dark coloured muscle having a high pH is usually associated with meat from stressed animals. This meat does not permit normal salt penetration and will spoil rapidly. It should be avoided where possible. Meat which is very soft, pale and exudative can be used without fear in the manufacture of carne-de-sol and charque but final product yields are likely to be affected. Other aspects of raw material quality have been considered in an earlier chapter.

Hygiene control in the plant should be primarily aimed at (i) preventing contamination through bacteria that are tolerant of salt and which cause disagreeable changes in the products and (ii) discouraging insect larval infestations.

Each step in the processing deserves particular care but special attention must be given to the brining and drying operations.

Rennovations of the brine must be carried out often to avoid microbial contamination. In many plants the brine is tested daily to verify its redox potential. A high potential is necessary to avoid the build up of microbial growth. Mechanical agitation of the brine also serves the same purpose. Where it is not possible to verify the brine condition, it is recommended that it is either discarded daily or boiled if this is economically sensible.

The drying racks are another major source of contamination by the nature of the material from which they are constructed. Wood is difficult if not impossible to cleanse thoroughly and must be subject to rigorous disinfection. A daily routine of degreasing with chemicals or hot water should be followed. After the removal of the fat deposits, the rails should be thoroughly washed down using a 0.4% sodium hypochlorite solution. Plant managers should note that since sodium hypochlorite is readily decomposed by organic matter a preliminary wash down with hot water to remove grease is essential. Contact time of the hypochlorite solution should not be less than 10 minutes after which the rails should be once more washed down with acidified water.

All equipment, floors and walls should be subject to a routine washing down and disinfection. Water used for the initial scrubbing down of surfaces to remove fat and other organic material should be maintained at 70–75°C and cleaning cloths should be used once only and then boiled. The most suitable disinfectant for meat plants is sodium hypochlorite.

The control of insects inside the plant can be successfully achieved using netting at all windows, doors and in exposed roof spaces. Air curtains are also effective but the high purchase and running costs exclude their use in small throughout plants. Outside the plant, files can be controlled through periodic removal of all debris and litter and by a daily programme of fumigation with insecticides. Such steps should only be carried out under the direction of experienced officers since public health risks are associated with indiscriminant use of insecticides.


Preparation of sodium hypochlorate

Mix 50 g chloride and lime and 100 g washing soda with a little water to a thick paste. Dilute, stir well, with water to make up 5 litres. Allow sediment to stand then decant or filter off the clear liquid. This will give a 0.4% solution ready for use.

It is important that charque does not come into contact with alkaline surfaces which provide an excellent medium for the development of red mould (vermelhao). Where alkali detergents are used for the removal of grease it is imperative that these surfaces should later be washed down with a solution (1%) of acetic or lactic acid.

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