October 27, 2008
by Andrew Joseph, Features Editor
In this day and age, measuring the shelf-life of a fresh meat product in weeks is becoming almost as commonplace as measuring it in terms of days—all thanks to the continuous scientific evolution of MAP (modified-atmosphere packaging) technologies and procedures across the global meat industry.
While early variations of MAP can be traced back to 1930s, when the so-called CAS (controlled-atmosphere storage) methodology was first used for safeguarding the transport of fruit, the first real MAP applications for packed animal protein first appeared in the U.K. in the early 1970s as a means of lengthening the shelf-life of packaged bacon and fish.
And while MAP worked exactly as advertised almost from the outset, this new technology had to wait another 20 years or so before becoming a widespread packaging practice across most segments of the fresh meat industry—albeit with a few notable exceptions.
“I like to think that we tackled MAP when nobody else wanted to, and that we are probably a major contributor to its widely acclaimed use today,” states Ralph Kuhn, president and owner of the Sudbury, Ont.-based fresh meat-processing enterprise Vitto Brand Foods Ltd., which first began utilizing MAP technology around 1992.
Originally founded by two local brothers Vito and Tony Masotti back in 1975—with amalgamation of their first names used to christen the new corporate entity—Vitto Brand Foods has steadfastly remained true to its roots as a producer of high-quality mean products, according to Kuhn, who acquired the company in 1999.
“We are a premium-priced product, tending to concentrate on tastes that instill in people the feeling that ‘I must have another taste,’ as opposed to the extreme tastes that are more trendy than anything else,” Kuhn told Canadian Packaging in a recent interview.
“I believe that great-tasting food is a pleasure, not an invitation to sensational spicy creativity that lingers with you for three days after you’ve eaten it,” Kuhn states. “Sometimes just being simple is just being simply good.”
Employing about 35 people at a 14,800-square-foot meat factory and a nearby 14,000-square-foot distribution and storage facility, Vitto Brand Foods churns out a diverse range of fresh sausages from ground pork, chicken, turkey, beef and a pork-and-beef mix, further processing them into fully-cooked, grilled, smoked and wiener-style variations.
The company also produces a broad variety of deli-style meats, cured uncooked meat-cuts like peameal bacon, and fresh cuts of case-ready, MAP-treated, ready-to-cook meats such as Schnitzels, steaks, chops and roasts.