Ground Beef Packaging, What's the Difference?

Apr 26, 2017

If you were to walk to the meat counter at your local grocery store you can find a lot of variety in packaging ranging from foam trays to vacuum sealed. One meat product that can be packaged in a variety of ways is ground beef. You are more than likely to find more than one packaging method at your local meat counter, so what are the real difference?

Ground beef can be packaged in traditional packaging, modified- atmosphere packaging, vacuum sealed packaging, or chub packaging.

foam trays

The first type of packaging is traditional packing where the beef is placed on a foam tray and covered with a sort of cling wrap. This is the most common type of packaging, with approximately two-thirds of fresh meat being packaged like this.   This is because it gives the meat the desirable bright cherry-red color consumers prefer. The reason this happens is because the packaging is aerobic, which means it allows oxygen in. This packaging is easy and inexpensive to use. The problem with this process is that with the meat exposed to oxygen, it spoils faster. That is why if you do purchase meat with this packaging it is recommended you use it in the following days to prevent spoilage. If you plan to freeze this meat you must place it in a sealed bag with no oxygen to prevent freezer burn.

MAP package

The next type of packaging is modified-atmosphere packaging. This is similar to traditional packaging but the difference is that the air is vacuumed out and replaced with a special blend of purified air to help control the growth of bacteria while still presenting the desired cherry-red color. This type of packaging does have an increased shelf life but just like with traditional packaging if you want to freeze your meat, it is recommended to move to an air tight container.

Vacuum package

Our next packaging technique is vacuum sealed packaging. While this packaging has the longest shelf life it alters the appearance of the meat. Vacuumed packaged meat will have a purple-ish red color instead of the desired cherry-red we see in other packaging. If you are planning to freeze the meat this packaging is your best option as meat can be frozen as-is without the risk of freezer burn.


Our final type of packaging is ground beef chubs. These come in a variety of package sizes and are essentially rolls of ground beef that have been tied at each end and vacuumed sealed to keep air out. These are great is you want to freeze your beef. Since they are airtight, the meat will appear purple-ish.


National Cattlemen’s Beef Association: Beef Packaging

Mom at the Meat Counter

Photos courtesy of Mom at the Meat Counter 

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