The Consumer Cold Chain: Evaluation of Consumer Handling Behaviors on Fresh Beef Products at Retail Locations and during Vehicular Transport from Retail to Residence and the Implications on Palatability
Type of DegreePhD Dissertation
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Unlike the controlled and highly regulated systematic steps in the production and handling of the fresh red meat products prior to purchase, a consumer’s handling behavior cannot be regulated by an outside authority after the product has reached a consumer’s hands. The objective of this research was to gain a greater understanding of consumer handling behavior during transport from retail to residence and impactions on fresh beef temperature, color, and palatability. According to survey research, there is a 91.8 % chance fresh red meat could be transported without temperature protection. Consumers will commonly leave fresh beef products in a cart up to 20 minutes prior to check-out, can take up to 60 minutes to return home, and will run other errands with fresh red meat products left in the vehicle. Upon removal from the retail display case and placement in cart, the average time needed to exceed a safe internal temperature of 4.4 °C in over-wrap packaged ground beef was 49 minutes given the retail environmental temperature of 21.2 °C. Moreover, after 120 minutes, an internal temperature of 9.0 °C was observed. Regardless of air conditioning, the inside of a vehicle can exceed 37.7°C given an environmental temperature of 32.2 °C. Fresh red meat can exceed 4.4 °C during vehicular transport from retail to residence especially in the absence of air conditioning and after stopping for additional errands. A cooler bag without ice can exceed 38.5 °C inside the bag, while the addition of ice results in a mean temperature of 6.3 °C when environmental temperatures exceed 32.2 °C. Finally, handling behavior in retail and during vehicular transport that results in temperature abuse will directly impact fresh red meat color appeal and palatability (P < 0.05). Results indicate the need for consumer awareness and proper behaviors that will mitigate temperature abuse.