Using light-emitting diode (LED) lights in refrigeration units saves energy for retailers and extends the shelf life of some beef products, according to new research conducted at Kansas State University that will be presented at the Capitol Graduate Research Summit in Topeka in February.
The researchers compared the use of LED lights and fluorescent lights in meat refrigeration units because many meat retailers currently use fluorescent lights. During refrigerated display, the color of fresh meat changes because of its natural chemistry and exposure to oxygen. Because color is a large factor that influences customers in purchasing meat, some consumers discriminate against discolored meat. The discolored meat products must either be discounted or discarded, which has been estimated to cost the meat industry up to a billion dollars each year.
Researchers looked at five different meat products—pork loin chops, beef loin steaks, ground beef, ground turkey and beef inside round steaks. They examined several aspects of these meat products and their refrigeration units including discoloration, rancidity and operating efficiency. They found LED lights scored positively in nearly all areas. Most significantly, LED lights helped reduce operating costs and prolonged the shelf life for most of the meat products.
"Most meat products displayed under LED lighting had colder internal product temperatures, which helps extend product shelf life," they said. "Beef loin steaks and inside round steaks that were stored under LED lights can have up to one day longer shelf life."
Among operational costs, LED lights had fewer cycles per running hour, meaning they were a more efficient and cost-saving light source than fluorescent lights.
"By using LED lighting in meat retail display cases, Kansas retailers can save money by lowering the operational costs of refrigerated cases and extending the color shelf life of fresh meat products," they added. "Additionally, by extending the color shelf life, retailers have a greater opportunity to sell the product at full price, and the state of Kansas can gain tax revenue from the full retail price rather than a discounted price."