Meat Preservation through Brine Chilling

Meat makers use quality control procedures to get rid of brine in an effort to lower the risks, but doing so frequently raises running costs, necessitates more effluent treatment, and causes production to stop.


Brine chillers have become a popular method of preserving processed meat products and extending their shelf life among food processors. However, this process also carries certain risks due to the use of lactic acids and the potential exposure of products to Listeria monocytogenes (Listeria), a harmful contaminant that causes severe infection.

To reduce these risks, meat producers often implement quality control policies to dispose of brine if the bacteria count begins to rise. Despite having strict quality control procedures, frequent brine disposal leads to higher operating costs for the producer. This not only includes the costs of purchasing more brine but also indirect costs such as increased demand for wastewater treatment and production downtime during brine changeover. If these procedures are not carried out properly, the risk of a costly product recall due to Listeria exposure increases.

The Effectiveness of UV Disinfection in Brine Applications

In 2003, a study was conducted at the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University to assess the efficacy of UV disinfection in brine applications. The study, titled “Ultraviolet Light for the Inactivation of Listeria monocytogenes and Lactic Acid Bacteria in Recycled Chill Meat Brines” (Eifert et al), involved the continuous recirculation of fluid past the UV light. In meat brine applications, high levels of solids from added salt and particles from the meat product result in fluid clarity that is well below that of a typical UV water treatment application.

One of the critical parameters in UV system sizing is UV transmittance (UVT), which measures the amount of UV light that can penetrate the fluid and reach potential bacteria. The UVT of the brine in this study was 0% (completely opaque to UV light). In addition to UVT, disinfecting with UV light also depends on the residence time of the fluid in the UV chamber and the intensity of the UV light.

The study proved that even with a UVT of 0%, a reduction in lactic acid bacteria and Listeria is possible through UV disinfection in a meat brine application. The ideal recirculation rate was found to be equivalent to 1 gallon per minute for each gallon of brine volume. For example, a brine chiller with a volume of 100 gallons would require a recirculating pump and UV system capable of operating at a 100 gallons per minute flow rate.

Due to the cold temperature of the meat brine, a special cold temperature package was used with the UV lamp to ensure proper lamp ignition. Medium-pressure lamps were used in this study due to their polychromatic output, which has been proven to be effective, especially in fluids with extremely low UVT.

Benefits of Implementing UV in Meat Brine Chilling

For meat producers, there are several key benefits to implementing UV in their brine chilling process:

• Ensure Brine Quality: Slow the exponential growth of Listeria and reduce lactic acid to ensure brine quality.

• Reduce Brine Consumption Costs: Extend the lifecycle of the brine in the chiller, reducing the cost of brine consumption.

• Lower Maintenance Costs: Reduce brine disposal and production downtime, lowering maintenance costs.

• Reduce Demand on Wastewater Treatment: Decrease the demand for wastewater treatment.

• Extend the Shelf Life of the Final Product: Increase the shelf life of the final product.

• Eliminate the Risk of Product Recalls: Reduce the risk of costly product recalls.



UV disinfection offers a cost-effective solution for meat producers looking to improve brine quality, reduce costs, and eliminate the risk of product recalls. By continuously recirculating the fluid past UV light, the study showed that even with a UVT of 0%, a reduction in lactic acid bacteria and Listeria is possible. Implementing UV disinfection in the brine chilling process can lead to a range of benefits, including lower maintenance costs, reduced demand for wastewater treatment, and extended shelf life of the final product.

Date 01/02/2023


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