Cold Chain Shipping in the meat and seafood industry (especially with mail order products) is the logistical process of packaging and delivering goods so that they arrive properly fresh or frozen at their destination, preventing spoilage, customer dissatisfaction, and profit loss. Many businesses rely on Expanded Polystyrene (EPS) Foam Coolers and EPS Foam Shippers (often called Styrofoam Shipping Coolers or Styrofoam Shipping Boxes) as a means to meet the demanding thermal protection requirements for temperature-sensitive products and at the same time boosting potential profits by lowering the costs of container packaging. Here, we discuss what’s involved in using these space-age materials for basic business delivery needs.
Common Combinations of Cold Chain Shipping Supplies
Mail order packaging and general expedited shipping involving meat and seafood has evolved into a very standardized, efficient, cost-effective, profit-maximizing logistical process. For many businesses, that system of moving goods means using a well-tested arrangement of supplies proven to get the job done effectively. Among those are…
- Corrugated Cardboard Box Containers – printed or plain, marked “Perishable” by hand or stamp, often in white but mainly in a normal cardboard color
- Expanded Polystyrene (EPS) Foam Shippers – usually a minimum of 1.5 inches thick with a sealing lid to strengthen internal thermal integrity
- Thick and Durable Plastic Bags or Other Product Wrapping – to seal in the cargo itself so that it’s secure and has less contact with air
- Refrigerants for Cooling or Freezing – gel packs, gel blocks, or other self-contained chemical coolant; or, sometimes dry ice is utilized
- Temperature Trackers – temperature-sensitive strips or other devices that track the history of temperature changes, or with simpler tools, track whether the package contents have been exposed to out-of range temperatures at some point during delivery
- Absorbent Padding – to handle and prevent messes from any dripping or melting liquids
- Filler or ‘Dunnage’ Material Such As Packing Peanuts – takes up excess space so that cargo does not shift around excessively. Also, there’s less air to keep within temperature range
- Pressure Sensitive Packaging Tape – strong enough to keep a tough seal but flexible enough to allow for movement and shifting without cracking, splitting, or breaking during transit
This group has within it hundreds of varieties of products that companies can choose from according to their budget, with some being of higher quality than others. Of course, one gets what one pays for, so those responsible for shipping understand how a cheap shipping supply can ultimately end up costing much more in product returns and customer complaints.
In addition to standard supply sets for shipping, there are a couple of industry practices helpful for better results, such as…
Pre-Cooled Environmental Packing
To ensure that cargo within the insulated shipping containers have the best chance for fresh arrival, a good practice is to pre-condition the package itself so that there is no significant temperature range conflict at the start. For instance, companies who need to keep cold items cold will lower the temperature of the cargo to within the correct range and then package it in a controlled environment so that, once sealed, the refrigerants contained therein can stay at their current temperature or close to it for a longer period of time.
Pre-Testing Temperature Ranges
Depending on the geographic and weather peculiarities of differing regions of cities and states along the path of delivery, time can be an important factor for maintaining thermal equilibrium within a cold chain package. When a shipment moves from warm areas into cold or vice versa, cargo insulation must be able to compensate for temperature changes so that contents are not adversely affected. In the meat and seafood shipping logistical process, faster delivery times can make all the difference between customer satisfaction and product complaints and refunds. Twenty-four to forty-eight hour maximum delivery times are common, thus lowering the risk of spoilage, contamination, and cargo damage.
Wisely, organizations will minimize unpleasant surprises by sending “TEST SHIPMENTS” along routes they expect to use regularly, and then record the results. When companies know that a specific type of package going from California to Florida can arrive safely and securely as long as it is within a 48 hour window, they can ship with confidence when using a consistent schedule.
So, we see that businesses involved in the shipping of meat and seafood rely on an established choice of shipping supplies to prolong thermal insulation and temperature control of perishable goods and that they do so because it saves money, increases customer satisfaction, and improves the bottom line.