June 30, 2022 

Today's Top Meat and Poultry Coding Solutions

Man using meat and poultry coding solutions

Due to several factors, the meat and poultry field is one of the most demanding segments of the food packaging industry. Between health safety concerns, stringent state and federal regulations, and the need for reliable product traceability, meat packaging operations have a lot to consider when developing their operations. 

To ensure that daily activities run smoothly and all products are up-to-code, meat and poultry operations must equip their lines with marking equipment designed to meet the unique needs of the industry. For example, proper meat and poultry coding solutions must:

  • Operate in unison with larger production lines.
  • Work well in extreme conditions and temperatures.
  • Deliver consistently readable markings.
  • Be compatible with whatever packaging material is used in the facility.

In this article, we detail some of the top meat and poultry coding solutions and examine the scenarios in which each marking system is most suitable. 

Coding Solutions for the Meat and Poultry Industry

Given how varied the meat packaging industry is, one coding solution may work well for one operation and be entirely inappropriate for another. For this reason, coding and marking companies offer a variety of meat and poultry coding solutions that fit the needs of different operations. 

Below are some of the most popular meat and poultry coding options available today.

Continuous Inkjet Printer

Commonly used in the meat packaging industry since the mid-20th century, continuous inkjet (CIJ) printers are reliable, versatile, and capable of printing at industrial speeds. Compatible with nearly all popular meat packaging materials (including chub packs, flexible films and bags, cardboard cartons, metal cans, glass jars, and more), CIJ printers are well-suited for many meat packaging operations, including those that use either horizontal or vertical form fill sealers. 

CIJ printers, known for their high coding speeds and continuous coding capabilities, allow meat packaging companies to maximize uptime. Many CIJ printers are specifically designed to operate in harsh environments, including facilities facing extreme temperatures, humidity, and frequent washdowns. With these features, line operators can resist common environmental issues and efficiently ensure that their products are code-compliant.

A continuous inkjet printer may be suitable for your operation if you:

  • Are looking for wide substrate compatibility (as well as food-grade ink compatibility).
  • Need fast printing speeds.
  • Require condensation-resistant markings.
  • Utilize either a horizontal or vertical form fill seal machine.

Thermal Transfer Overprinter

Another coding solution that is well-suited to work alongside vertical and horizontal form fill sealers, thermal transfer overprinters (TTO) are ideal for creating codes that are durable, long-lasting, and easy to read. Unlike CIJ printers that use liquid ink and makeup to mark packaging, TTO models create markings by applying heat to ink-coated ribbons. These ribbons are coated with either wax- or resin-based inks, both of which can create richly-defined characters and highly-readable codes on many meat packaging materials, including:

  • Trays.
  • Flexible bags and pouches.
  • Shrinkwrap.
  • Chub packs.

Although TTO marking speeds are significantly slower than CIJ printing speeds, TTO markings are much starker than CIJ markings. This makes TTO a better choice for text-heavy marking applications, such as printing nutritional information, ingredients, and handling instructions. TTO markings are also able to maintain high legibility in freezing temperatures, making TTO particularly useful for marking bags of frozen food.

A thermal transfer overprinter may be suitable for your operation if you:

  • Package meat or poultry in flexible packaging, chub packs, or film.
  • Need higher-contrast codes than CIJ systems can produce.
  • Utilize either a horizontal or vertical form fill seal machine.

Laser Marking System

In the last 25 years, laser marking systems have steadily risen in popularity across the industrial packaging spectrum, including in meat and poultry packaging facilities, as they are prized for their fast coding speeds, lack of consumable costs, and consistently excellent results.

Fiber laser systems, in particular, are optimal for meat packaging operations due to their aptitude for marking metals, flexible packaging, and rigid plastic. However, it’s important to note that fiber lasers cost significantly more upfront than CIJ or TTO systems. At the same time, fiber lasers have far fewer maintenance needs and consumable costs than CIJ or TTO, which can lead to cost savings down the line.

A laser marking system may be suitable for your operation if you:

  • Use cartons, cans, jars, cases, or trays to package food.
  • Require top-of-the-line marking speeds.
  • Want to eliminate inks, fluids, and other printing consumables from your budget.
  • Can afford the substantial upfront investment.
  • Need high code resolution.

Want to learn more about meat and poultry coding solutions? Stay connected to C&M Digest by subscribing to our newsletter. With information on hardware, formulas, and other important marking topics, our newsletter will keep you updated on the latest industry developments. To get in touch with us about possible collaborations or ideas for coverage, contact us today.

C&M Digest Team

The C&M Digest Team is composed of experts from across the coding and marking world. Comprised of ink developers, hardware veterans, and engineers, our News Team delivers informed coverage that is always free from brand bias.

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