Cooling & Refrigeration

For fish and meat, even slight carelessness within the cooling chain can allow the concentration of pathogens to increase and endanger the health of consumers.

Meat and poultry: cooling and freezing for premium quality

After slaughtering, the cold chain begins – and with it our responsibility toward the consumer. Effective cooling and freezing of meat and poultry is essential for flawless and tasty food to become successfully marketable merchandise. GEA furthermore ensures cost effectiveness, since for us, energy efficiency and environmentally friendly refrigerants enjoy top priority.

It is our business to cool processes and products and to transport goods at the correct temperature. Today we serve the food industry with a large share of our technologies, including the meat, poultry and seafood sector. All throughout human history, people have attempted to make meat durable. Sausage arose from these efforts. Its manufacture also permitted the effective exploitation of the by-products of slaughtering, such as blood and innards. Ever since antiquity, sausage has therefore been a fixed component of our diet. Refined over the millennia and characterized by typical national tastes, sausage products not only lead the list of favorite foods of many nations: they are also frequently among the valuable cultural assets of certain regions. The situation is similar with poultry, which is likewise rooted in the traditions of many countries. One only has to think of the British stuffed turkey roast on the first day of Christmas.

Most people today are in the fortunate position to be able to select from an opulent availability of meat according to their heart’s desire – and can afford it. In the Middle Ages, however, meat was a privilege of the rich. Since meat at that time could not be cooled, it was preserved by being heavily salted and spiced with herbs. 

In the Western world meat can be bought at all times and everywhere, and it is furthermore easy to transport and store. It also tastes good, even though it has usually had a long trip behind it before reaching your table. Apart from correct animal husbandry, feeding, and satisfactory slaughter, the prerequisite for safe and good meat is an uninterrupted cooling or freezing process. Temperature control at the beginning of the process requires special attention. For example, if the meat is cooled down too rapidly to below 10 °C / 50 °F, it leads to muscle shrinkage, which makes the meat tough and leads to water loss. This “cold shortening” can be prevented if the meat is stored about 16 to 24 hours at about 16 °C / 60.8 °F . The later freezing process also has considerable influence on meat quality: the faster that freezing plants reach the low temperatures, the less impairment of the meat’s water-binding capacity.

Using GEA cooling and freezing plants, you can be certain that the meat not only tastes good. Our systems satisfy all hygienic standards and facilitate the construction of a functional cold chain. The investment in proper cooling management ultimately pays for itself, both for your company as well as the environment. 

Whether the subject is cooling and storage of fresh meat or cooling and freezing methods for further food processing, our profession requires considerable specialized know-how as well as great sensitivity and precision. With extreme care, prudence, and a love for detail, our engineers work out the suitable refrigeration technology for every kind of meat and poultry. GEA simply makes the best of your products.

On the high sea: GEA captures freshness

In many countries, fish represent the most important source of protein. This applies, for example, to the entire west coast of Africa. To assure such staples of diet for the African population, the trawler Jupiter of our customer Namsov Fishing Enterprises (Pty) Ltd is on duty in the ocean off Namibia. Equipped with trawls and extensive GEA refrigeration systems, the ship is on the hunt for horse mackerel – with good success.

Nature itself helps here toward a rich harvest: favorable ocean streams carry tremendous amounts of plankton from the Antarctic Ocean to the ocean off the southwest of Africa. Schools of these mackerel nourish themselves from this plankton. At the same time, the very best of refrigeration technology goes into play here – after all, the biggest catch is of little use if it’s not protected from perishing immediately and effectively by cooling and freezing. The relatively high outdoor temperatures represent an additional challenge for the refrigeration systems in these waters.

Jupiter was launched in 1990 by the shipbuilders Volkswerft, in Stralsund, Germany. Since almost two decades on the high seas had taken their toll, the ship was recently renovated. In 2006 GEA brought its refrigeration systems up to the
state of the art – with GEA responsible from planning to implementation. Today, the Jupiter has a cargo capacity of 2,000 metric tons. Freezing capacity has risen by around 250 %: from originally 65 to now an average of 170 tons per day. For the Jupiter this was a major breakthrough – and almost routine for the experienced GEA team, who are intimately familiar with this ship type (Atlantik 488).

But it’s not only the quantity that plays a key role: quality is likewise critical. No time may be lost. The sea creatures taken aboard must be cooled immediately after the catch. If, for example, the Jupiter takes in a particularly large school of fish, it will place them in intermediate storage tanks and pre-cool them there with refrigerated seawater or liquid ice. This advanced technique is known as cooling with refrigerated seawater (RWS) – a technology for which GEA is already hard at work. GEA supplied the pumps, flaps, valves, and fittings for the seawater system aboard the Jupiter. Effective filters assure hygienic conditions.

After automatic sorting of the mackerels in special machines, ten vertical plate freezers go into action. Packed in like sardines, the mackerels are frozen between freezer plates to handy blocks 65 x 250 x 800 mm in size, with an average weight of around 10 kg. They are then packed into cartons. This size of fish blocks is very popular on African fish markets, since they can be simply handled and transported by individual persons. These icy blocks remain in giant isolated storage rooms in the ship until its arrival in port – kept at - 25 °C / - 13 °F by GEA air coolers.

But it’s not only people who enjoy the benefits of professional cooling of the beloved mackerels. During fish production on board, a valuable by-product is created: fish meal. The refrigeration technology of GEA is also used in the production and storage of this high-quality fodder.