Posts Tagged “UC Davis”

In-Transit Issues – Part IV: Shippers Cutting Corners can be Costly

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DSCN0730(Note: This  was originally planned as a five-part series, but is now turning into a 6-part series as I keep finding more information that is not only interesting, but I believe can be of great value to you as a produce trucker.  Also, the latest strawberry purchase at my local Wal-Mart, was again this season, a frustrating experience.  While the berries had good color protected in the clamshell container, they turned out to be soft and spongy once I got home and opened it.

Part IV of this series, may provide a clue why my strawberry purchase was disappointing, and why your delivery of some strawberries, may be cost you a claim or rejection at destination.  — Bill Martin)

For example, several produce shippers of fresh strawberries choose to use a non-sealed bag type system, according to Rich Macleod of TransFresh Corp., Salinas, CA, whose product is Tectrol.

In this series, I have used information from  a study by the University of California, Davis/University of Florida study showing the advantages for truckers who have strawberry loads with palletized sealed bags using carbon dioxide (CO2).  The study also is quite favorable to TransFresh.  I’m referring to the research, Comparison of Pallet Cover Systems to Maintain Strawberry fruit Quality During Transit.

If I had not known Rich Macleod for years, being familar with his work, his concern for produce truckers and in general his honesty and integrity, plus his impressive career, I might be a bit wary of a study conducted in part by his alma mater, UC Davis, that is favorable to his company.

However, there was another study commissioned by PEAKfresh, a competitor of TransFresh.  It was conducted by the Horticulture and crop Science Department at Cal Poly State University, San Luis Obispo, entitled, Comparison of the Efficacy of the PEAKfresh and Tectrol Systems for Maintaining Strawberry Quality.

This study can be found on both the PEAKfresh and TransFresh websites.

In part the research states, “Berries  in PEAKfresh treated pallets became softer on average than berreis in the Tectrol treated pallets during cross-country shipments, and this is in agreement with previous research on the effect of elevated CO2 on strawberry firmness.”

Additionally the PEAKfresh commissioned study notes after a two-day shelf life, fruit from the Tectrol pallet system exhibited significantly less decay, from 3% to 7% than other systems evaluated.

So if research is showing that non-sealed pallet/bag systems results in more softness and decay in strawberries, why doesn’t everyone use the sealed system?

Rich Macleod says, “There is a significant price difference between an unsealed bag and a sealed MAP system (Tectrol).  Obviously there is a lot more sophistication in materials, equipment and man power to create a sealed MAP.”

Macleod has been told the open bag systems cost around $8 to $12-plus per bag, while Tectrol charges its shippers $19.25 per service.

“Prices can range from $24/pallet to $30/pallet for either bag or service,” Macleod says.

Continuing, he states, “First off, if you are using the open bag system, you are not injecting any CO2.  If you are using MAP (Tectrol), you not only are injecting CO2 or other gasses, you are trying to keep those gasses contained or sealed inside the system.”

Thus, Macleod wants the Tectrol CO2 levels to hit between 10% and 18% inside the sealed Tectrol bag upon arrival at destination.  Thus, this process requires more material, specialized bags, sealing tape, CO2 injection machinery, etc.

So for obvious reasons, the Tectrol process costs a shipper more money, and apparently some shippers would rather risk strawberry quality shipped to customers, than pay more.

The old saying, “you pay for what you get” certainly seems to apply to modified atmosphere shipments of strawberries.

“Shippers who recommend and sell open bags enjoy a significant cost advatange over those recommending and selling a MAP like Tectrol.  However, as a retailer, given the UC Davis data, why would you pay the same for an open bag service as a true MAP service,” Macleod asks.

And I, as a consumer, am wondering if Wal-Mart or their suppliers are not trying to cut corners on what they pay for strawberries because those berries are trucked across country in unsealed bags.  It is the peak strawberry season, and I can’t seem to buy any decent strawberries!

(This is Part 4 0f 6 featuring an interview with Rich Macleod, vice president, pallet division North America for TransFresh Corp., Salinas, CA.  He has been with the company since 1976, and has a masters degree in post harvest science from the University of California, Davis.)






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