In-Transit Issues Pt. I – Maintaining Peach Quality

In-Transit Issues Pt. I – Maintaining Peach Quality

Peach season is upon us and that means a lot of produce truckers will be hauling this perishable fruit over the next few months.

Too many receivers, and consumers  are dissatisfied with the quality of this stone fruit and much of the fault may lie with what has happened prior to the produce trucker picking up the fruit.

Rich Macleod of TransFresh Corp., Salinas, CA created the Fresh Produce Mixer & Loading Guide about 30 years ago and it still remains in demand from brokers, retailers and carriers needing accurate information regarding in- transit temperature settings and proper mixing of produce items in the same load.

For example, the guide recommends peaches be transported at 34 to 36 degrees F. and can be effectively shipped with many other fruit items and some vegetables.

“The temperature killing range for peaches is roughly 38 to 50 degrees F.  Realistically, that is the (temperature) range where everything (in produce) is transported,” Macleod says.

He cites four specific factors which can hinder a good, quality arrival for peaches, even if the trucker maintains the proper temperature, has his reefer unit calibrated and trailer has features ranging from bulkhead, seals, and doors in good condition, among other things.

(1)  Growers should not cross subliminal,or inadequate varieties of peaches and expect a good product.

(2)  The peaches should not be harvested before they mature.

(3)  After the peaches are harvested, there should be “intermitent” warming, where the fruit sets in a temperature range of 60 to 70 degrees F. for a day or so.

(4) Then the peaches should be cooled and packed with a pulp temperature of 36 degrees F.

“If you do all of these steps together, the probability is the quality is going to  be pretty good,” Macleod states. 

He says the peach growing and shipping industry is working to address these issues, but it often is easier said than done.

Obstacles or issues too often can waylay the best made plains.  For example, due to weather factors, early variety peaches may end up overlapping with a later variety fruit.  Another example deals with markets.  A “hot” or high priced market for peach sellers may result in the product being picked before it is mature.  Then suddenly there may be too many peaches on the market, the prices collapse and the product is held back with sellers hoping for better profits to be made.

Stone fruit  held in storage or transported at the wrong temperature becomes “mealy or flavorless,” and turns brown on the inside, even though the outside of the fruit may look good.

“It’s called internal breakdown,” Macleod says.

About the time a produce operation may get all of the issues figured out, something may happen such as new managment coming in and the same old problems start all over gain.  Meanwhile, the produce trucker may end up in the middle of a problem at destination that  may not even be his or her fault.

(This is Part 1 0f 5, featuring an interview with Rich Macleod, vice president, pallet division North America for TransFresh Corp., Salinas, CA.  He has been with company since 1976, and has a masters degree in post harvest science from the University of California, Davis.)