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A RESEARCH project by Nofima has concluded that the recommended shelf life for chilled boiled clusters of red king crab legs is three days longer than the meat from the crab's shoulder.

"During production of clusters, the king crab is divided into two units. Each unit or cluster comprises three legs plus one claw attached to a shoulder. We have tested meat tissue from the shoulder and legs of the clusters with respect to microbiology, acidity (pH factor), colour, smell and taste," says Nofima Senior Scientist Grete Lorentzen.

"As the crab meat in the leg is well protected by the shell, the meat in the legs has a longer shelf life than meat from the shoulder. The shorter shelf life for meat located in the shoulder may be attributed to the fact that it is exposed and not protected," says Lorentzen.

"After an overall assessment of the analysis results, we determined that the meat in the leg has a shelf life of eight days, while the meat located in the shoulder has a shelf life of five days. As it is impractical to operate with two different shelf lives for the same product, the overall recommendation is a shelf life of five days for boiled and chilled clusters."

She points out that the EU directive contains rules that food products shall be labelled with a "best before" date and specification of special storage requirements, eg chilling / cold storage temperature.

"It's entirely up to the industry itself to decide the criteria that shall form the basis for determining the shelf life," says Lorentzen. "In this trial, the development of smell and taste were the most decisive factors for setting the shelf life at eight and five days for meat from the leg and shoulder respectively."

The crabs that were tested were produced by Storbukt Fiskeindustri AS in Honningsvåg, Northern Norway, in February. Following capture, they were stored live in tanks for 1-2 weeks prior to production. The production involves "breaking" into two clusters, boiling and chilling.

After breaking, the clusters go through the following procedure: storage in fresh water for 5-10 minutes, removal of the gills by hand, bleeding for 20-30 minutes, trimming of remaining gills, grading, packing in metal containers (approximately 20kg), boiling for 22-24 minutes at a core temperature of 92 °C, cooling in seawater for 20 minutes, additional cooling in refrigerated sea water for 20 minutes and packing (approximately 10 kg net weight).

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