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Prepared meals in the supermarket chiller could soon have their own ‘birth certificate’, thanks to world-class food handling technology developed by an entrepreneurial King Country farmer turned businessman.

As well as carrying information on the origin of the meat and vegetables and details of the cooking- even down to the temperatures used - the meals have an unparalleled shelf life, thanks to technology developed for their preparation that eliminates any human intervention.

Auckland-based McMaster’s Farms has developed the ‘cocoon’ human-free automated conveying system; a kiwi ingenuity innovation helped with a grant of $55,000 from Technology New Zealand’s Grants for Private Sector Research and Development (GPSRD) scheme, part of the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology.

McMaster’s Farms has expanded its original ‘farm to dinner plate’ business, which supplied restaurants and some supermarkets with prime meat carefully bred, fed and killed to precise standards and conditions, into providing complete meals that can stay on a chiller shelf for 14 days and beyond.

While the meals themselves are exciting large supermarket chains in the UK, it is the technology behind the preparation that could pay big dividends for Mike McMaster’s company.

Specialised packaging mean virtually bacteria-free products with extended shelf life; a concept Guill Le Roux, leader of the food safety team at AgResearch’s MIRINZ Centre applauds.

Le Roux’s meat microbiology team has been working alongside McMaster’s Farms to develop the technology, which Mr Le Roux describes as a breakthrough for this part of the world, and possibly for the sophisticated UK and US markets.

“The responses that they are getting from companies in the UK indicate that this is a unique process. Our engineers have been working closely with Mike McMaster’s chef to look at improving the processes even further and the potential is significant where companies or organisations want chef-created meals that taste as good as they look- even weeks later.”

Although the process is still in pilot plant stage, the company is fielding interest from overseas companies keen to pursue joint venture arrangements with McMaster’s Farms to licence the technology.


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