The unique cold chain process of RDF Feed, Livestock & Foods, Inc. (RDFFLFI)

Producing safe food should be the ultimate goal of any agri-food system enterprise. By the time the meat reaches the consumer’s kitchen, they should be assured of the many safety measures taken by these companies to deliver fresh and quality meat. Big brand names are not enough to guarantee the viability of the meat we purchase.

The meat supplier’s delivery system is usually where it falls short. Meat producers may have the best plants with state of the art facilities but if they have a poor delivery system, the whole process to keep the quality of the meat is compromised.

A worker inspecting the packaged meat on a conveyor belt.

Most companies contract third parties to deliver freshly slaughtered meat, with no proper monitoring systems on the trucks’ temperature and travel time. It is common knowledge that some of these contractors turn off the truck’s refrigeration system during travel to lessen fuel costs. Proper handling of products during delivery also plays a key role in maintaining quality. Common practices are dropping products directly on the floor, carrying carcasses on the bare backs of handlers, and these compromise the product.

A Better Way

A local producer that is gaining the trust of Filipino meat consumers is RDF Feed, Livestock & Foods, Inc. (RDFFLFI). It has introduced a unique cold chain process to ensure the quality of the meat they sell. From the slaughterhouse or dressing plants to dispatching to the delivery of animal protein, RDF can guarantee the freshness of its meat.

Livestock and poultry are prepared differently at the start of the cold chain process. For pork, the cold chain process starts in the slaughterhouse, where carcasses are placed in a refrigerated 10-wheeler truck that transfers the carcass to the central depot. This process cools down the internal temperature of hot carcasses. At the central depot, the internal temperature of the carcasses reaches 36 to 39 degree Celsius. It will then be stored in the holding room with the room temperature of -10 to -15 degrees Celsius to cool down the carcass internal temperature to 7 degrees Celsius below before cutting.

For beef, the holding room is pro-cooled an hour before the arrival of the carcasses. After pre-washing and sanitizing with chlorinated water at 0 to 3 degrees Celsius, the carcasses are transferred to the pre-cooled holding room.

Pre-cooled holding room – The holding room is pre-cooled an hour prior to the arrival of the carcasses. After pre-washing and sanitizing the carcasses using chlorinated water at 0 to 3 degree Celsius, carcasses are transferred to the pre-cooled holding room and stored for 14 to 16 hours or until it reaches an internal temperature of less than 7 degrees Celsius. The carcasses are then sent to the fabrication area, where they are cooled at 10 to 15 degree Celsius, which is the prime temperature for cutting.

Dressing plant – For chicken, the cold chain process starts in the dressing plant. Dressed chickens are passed through two chilling vat washers to sanitize the carcasses and bring the internal temperature of the carcasses to 4 degrees Celsius. The first chilling vat has chlorinated chilled water with a temperature of 8 to 12 degrees Celsius. The second vat has chlorinated water cooled to 0 to 3 degrees Celsius. Chilled dressed chicken will then be placed in crates lined with plastic and filled with crushed ice.

A worker at the dressing plant.

After the initial process, all items are then stored in a freezer. Warehouse men will prepare the orders from each store, and this is all done under a room temperature of 10 degrees. Ordered items will then be stored in the anteroom then cooled to 10 degrees Celsius. An assigned personnel regularly monitors the temperature of all products in the storage area. Proper storing of products in crates and proper spacing per crate is strictly monitored to ensure that there is balanced, cool airflow inside the room.

Dispatching – During the dispatching process, items are checked by the dispatcher, drivers, and crew to make sure that items declared on the shipping document have the same weight as the actual product. This process happens in a temperature-controlled room, pre-cooled prior to the actual dispatch. Prior to loading, trucks are pre-cooled up to 4 degrees Celsius. Products are then carefully transferred to the trucks. During the trip, the temperature of the truck’s refrigeration is monitored through a GPS system, and the staff makes random checks during the entire trip.

When the products reach the retail outlets, stocks are placed in a 6-door storage chiller freezer, while items for selling are displayed in 3-door freezers to maintain the cold chain process.

RDF’s facilities, from production to delivery and retail outlets, are all owned and operated by the company. Customers can be assured that RDF has control of every part of the cold chain process. RDF has also Quality Assurance field representatives to regularly check the products sold in the stores.

The cold chain process is very important to ensure that the meat products purchased are safe for consumers. Perishable goods are temperature sensitive, and any interruption in the process will greatly affect the quality of the product. The cold chain process reaffirms RDF’s commitment to bring safe and quality food to consumer tables.

This appeared in Agriculture Monthly’s December 2016 issue.