When it comes to food preservation, we’ve come a long way over the past few thousand years – but some things still elude our grasp, like our neverending quest to keep meat from going bad for just one more day. According to a new study from Kansas State University, LED lights could be the answer.
Kyle Steele, a master’s graduate of KSU Silver Lake’s animal sciences and industry division, led the study, which compared the effects of LED and fluorescent lights in the type of retail display cases that supermarkets typically use for raw meat. Steele and his associates studied pork loin chops, beef loin steaks, ground beef, ground turkey, and beef inside round steaks, checking the meats under each lighting system for markers like discoloration, rancidity, and operating efficiency.
What the study found was that beef kept under LED lights was much slower to discolor, a byproduct of LED lights’ limited energy use. "Most meat products displayed under LED lighting had colder internal product temperatures, which helps extend product shelf life," Steele said in a press release from the college. "Beef loin steaks and inside round steaks that were stored under LED lights can have up to one day longer shelf life."
As most everyone knows, few things are a bigger turn-off in the meat aisle than beef that has gone grey with age. According to Steele, this oxidization leads to billions of dollars in meat industry loss every year, as markets are forced to discount or toss out beef past its prime. The extra time awarded by LED light fixtures could be a windfall for everyone from meat producers to retail outlets.
LED lighting itself is nothing new, and while it’s not flawless (and what is, after all?) its efficiency is good news for the environment. But we also know that change can be hard, especially in large retail chains that would have to spend millions on overhauls. But those are millions that could be regained – and even built on – in terms of less product lost. Perhaps a figure like that will help change a few more minds.