Before processing, mussels are put through a flushing process that removes any impurities they may have ingested prior to arriving at the plant, ensuring they meet the highest standards for quality and freshness. A de-bearding process and hand grading follow. Finally, mussels are packed by weight in mesh bags from 2 lbs to 25 lbs and placed in containers weighing from 10 lbs to 1,000lbs, according to customer request.
DeepChill systems use seawater to generate the DeepChill crystals, and automatically deliver a thick slurry to various locations at the facilities. The thick DeepChill ice slurry is sprayed into each container and flows through and around the mesh bags, filling every crevice, and quickly cooling each individual mussel to just above 0°C. Since the slurry is in the mesh bags, and not just surrounding them as with other icing methods, the mussel bags can be packed more densely in the boxes. With more bags, more DeepChill is used and therefore, more cooling power is present, enabling the low temperature to last longer.
Prince Edward Aqua Farms in Canada, one of the leading seafood companies in the region, were looking to reduce drip loss and increase the shelf life of their “Island Gold” Cultured Mussels, the pride of their company. They needed to maintain a colder core temperature, especially during the mussel spawning season in June and July, and reduce the manual labour. They wanted a system that was fast cooling, slow melting and more efficient than the flake ice system they were using at the time.
In late 2005, they integrated a DeepChill system into their processing facilities. The DeepChill slurry is used to pack mussels and ship them across North America, with slurry being discharged into bulk containers of mussels packed in mesh bags, cooling them to just above 0°C. It floods every surface – top to bottom of the containers, quickly cooling all of the product evenly, and maintaining that low temperature.
Prince Edward Aqua Farms stated that they reduced overpack by 75%, and their customers can now get 10-12 days shelf life from their mussels, compared to 7 days from a competitor’s mussels preserved in flake ice. Compared to their old flake ice system that required a lot of manual labour to shovel ice into every box and vat, the DeepChill system gave them an automatic method for icing that got in between every mussel in every bag, ensuring fast cooling of the entire product. Prince Edward Aqua Farms’ General Manager Jerry Bidgood stated, “DeepChill has helped us improve as a company financially, and allowed us to supply consistently superior product that our customers recognize and keep returning for repeat orders.”