Editors' Note: This is an updated version of our 2019 Thanksgiving article.
Today, millions of Americans will sit down to enjoy Thanksgiving dinner with friends and family. A recognizable menu at any time of year, the traditional meal features cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, rolls, pumpkin pie, stuffing and, of course, turkey! Before enjoying your sumptuous meal, take a few moments to read how this holiday is made possible by compressed air and gas technologies:
Automate Those Lines! Before the food you eat makes it to the table, it must be packaged and transported – but how does it even get to the packaging area? With the help of air compressors! Compressed air is used to control the valves and actuators in automated lines for filling, packaging, and bottling; low-pressure compressed air will also help move the food down the production line so that packaging can occur.
Bottling. What’s Thanksgiving dinner without a glass of wine? Bottling is the quintessential application for compressors and nitrogen generators in winemaking. Air compressors provide the pressurized air that moves the wine from the barrels to the bottles, and because wines are particularly susceptible to oxidation during bottling, using an inert gas like nitrogen to remove the oxygen from the empty bottles helps ensure the freshness of the wine. N2 is also used to eliminate the carbon gases from the bottles prior to capping.
Canning. Vacuum pumps and nitrogen generators are also used in canning, which is a necessary process for other Thanksgiving favorites like pumpkin puree and cranberry sauce. Vacuum is used to form the can, stamped from a single piece of aluminum, and to hold the cans as they move down the line. Because aluminum is nonmagnetic, the vacuum level must be able to hold the cans as they are lifted, set down and filled. Nitrogen generators also play an important role in canning, as they introduce nitrogen into the cans holding the end products. Every pocket of space in the cans are filled with nitrogen, thus removing the oxygen eliminating moisture and mold. What you are left with is a fresher, tastier product that stays that way for longer.
Cooling and Spraying. Baked goods like dinner rolls and sweet breads are iconic parts of the Thanksgiving day meals. Compressed air is used to cool down baked goods after they emerge from the oven, which helps prevent contamination and product spoilage.
Food Packaging. Vacuum and nitrogen technology are essential elements of the Thanksgiving Day feast. Because turkeys are distributed across the country, they must be packaged and frozen prior to being shipped to their final destination. This is accomplished with both vacuum pumps and nitrogen generators:
The vacuum process removes atmospheric oxygen from the food packages to prevent aerobic bacteria and fungi from growing.
Meanwhile, on-site nitrogen generation ensures that the food doesn’t spoil by displacing the remaining oxygen from the package in a process called MAP, or Modified Atmospheric Packaging, which inhibits aerobic spoilage. This is especially important for perishable meats that can quickly sour without proper precautions! Keep in mind that turkeys aren’t the only food item that benefit from compressed air and gas technologies, however. MAP with nitrogen is commonly utilized in snacks, coffee, cheese, pasta, baked goods, sandwiches and processed meats. It is also becoming increasingly popular in fresh-cut produce, like pre-packaged salads and fruit, for convenience, quality, and more variety.
We hope everyone has a safe and happy Thanksgiving! Enjoy your time with family and friends, and if you’d like to learn more about compressed air and gas, you can find us at www.atlascopco.com/air-usa!