June 18, 2019

The poultry problem – a comparison of UK and US methods


There are many things Americans find inexplicable about the British. Perhaps it’s the incessant use of the word ‘sorry’ or the perplexing greeting of ‘you alright?’. Verbal contrasts aside, the nations also have peculiar differences in the way they package food. Miguel Campos, export sales manager at aluminium packaging manufacturer Advanta, gives his experience of the two nations’ poultry processing and packaging.


The US and the UK have long prided themselves on sharing a cultural, political and commercial bond, often dubbed ‘the special relationship’. For food, it’s no different. Both nations have a love for chicken, but with a few differences along the way.

Globally, the poultry market is booming. In fact, poultry represents the largest percentage of meat production on the planet, with 122.5m metric tons of poultry produced in 2018 alone. The US is the largest poultry meat producer in the world, but the European sector is growing.

Increased demand for poultry is something to be celebrated, but this creates even more importance on choosing the right processing methods that ensure safety and reduce the environmental impact of poultry production. 

For whole poultry, a huge difference between the UK and US is the way consumers prefer to cook chicken.

Brits were quick to embrace pre-marinated cook-in bag concepts when these first came to market. These bags contain poultry in an aluminum tray, offering an easy and mess-free cooking experience. As moisture cannot escape from the meat during the cooking process, the result is a succulently juicy meal.

This packaging concept is also highly convenient, as the consumer doesn’t need to handle raw meat.

The US on the other hand isn’t as big an adopter of the cook-in bag idea. American supermarkets are more likely to stock skin packed or vacuum-packed whole poultry. For these products, consumers must peel off the plastic film, add their preferred spices and place on an oven-safe tray for cooking. Arguably less convenient than cook-in bag options, but this does offer longer shelf lives due to the oxygen reduction of the packaging methods.

Choosing the right packaging for poultry-based meals has never been more crucial. Both the UK and the US are currently refocusing their sustainability missions, not only on the carbon emissions produced by poultry processing, but also in the fight against plastic packaging.

The current packaging norms in both nations are dominated by plastic — although the Brits are slightly ahead in adopting aluminum alternatives on the supermarket shelves.

As such, Britain’s packaging manufacturers are focusing their efforts on developing aluminum trays that are compatible with vacuum packing, which can adopt an effective polymer-metal seal. By achieving this, manufacturers can reap the benefits of vacuum sealing, just as retailers in the US do, but with added sustainability.

Aluminum packaging manufacturer, Advanta, is currently trialing the first aluminum tray for whole poultry, which is compatible with both skin pack and vacuum packing techniques. The packaging product is available to both the UK and US markets.

With poultry representing the largest segment of the world’s meat production, enabling longer shelf life for these products could significantly reduce global food waste. It’s time that more countries take a closer look at poultry processing, to consider if other nations are doing it in a better or more sustainable way.

Otherwise, as the British commonly put it, they may be ‘sorry’ when their poultry products cannot withstand similar shelf lives.