On Thanksgiving Day, and somewhere strategically planned between the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and the big game lies one of America’s favorite Holiday traditions – the Thanksgiving feast. While not everyone’s menu mirrors Norman Rockwell’s masterpiece of the perfect Holiday meal, one might assume it would include turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, dinner rolls, corn, a casserole that Aunt Bethany made with whatever was close to expiring in her pantry and pies baked to perfection.
But before the turkey gets carved and a heaping spoonful of Aunt Bethany’s mystery casserole gets dropped on your plate, you might get asked what you’re thankful for. Well, maybe this year you could say you’re thankful for the compressed air, gas and vacuum solutions that made everything on the table possible. Let’s look at how:
Poultry Processing: Let’s start with the main course and star of the show, the turkey. Turkey requires compressed air and vacuum for the pneumatic tools and conveyors used in the cleaning, waste removal and transporting processes designed to prepare birds for packaging.
Bottling. What’s Thanksgiving dinner without a glass of wine or a pumpkin beer? Bottling is the quintessential application for compressors and nitrogen generators in winemaking and beer brewing. Air compressors provide the pressurized air that moves the wine from the barrels to the bottles and the beer from vats to cans or bottles. 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 necessary 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 Thanksgiving meals. Compressed air and vacuum solutions are used to cool down baked goods after they emerge from the oven by removing moisture from the air which helps prevent contamination and product spoilage.
Automated 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? 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. Once it’s made its way to the end of the production line, vacuum is used for palletizing finished goods before it’s loaded onto the truck.
Food Packaging. Because turkeys and other Thanksgiving staples are distributed across the country, they must be packaged and frozen prior to being shipped to their destination. This is accomplished with both vacuum pumps and nitrogen generators. Vacuum packaging is a very common process during which atmospheric oxygen is removed from the food packaging to prevent aerobic bacteria and fungi from growing. This not only help keep food fresh, but it increases the shelf life of things like poultry, fruits, and vegetables.
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. This process is not just for turkeys, 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 and steer clear of the dish topped with mini marshmallows. It’s clearly hiding something delicious. Enjoy your time with family and friends.