Just like “Ol’ Man River,” chub packaging seems to just keep rolling along. Time after time in conversations you hear the same things about itsplace in the meat industry. Simple package format. Reliable means to market. Economical. As one executive put it, “It’s a stable business.” On the surface, rarely does there appear to be any real change. “Products are in chubs for a reason,” he said. For ground products such as beef, poultry and sausage that basically look the same to shoppers, and where price matters, it’s an economical, cost-effective package that can sustain the high throughput volumes the business demands.

So the chub is all of these things and does all of these things, but is there any notable change? In a word, yes. Thanks to some advancements in packaging equipment design, chubs are finding traction with larger package sizes for whole-muscle products such as premium boneless hams. At least one processor is loading a couple of pork legs, together weighing as much as 30 pounds, into the breech of a unique machine that automatically compresses the legs and packages them in a clipped chub. It’s then ready to be cooked and sliced for retail distribution. We tend to associate chubs solely with retail applications, so this represents a new twist.  It may not be sexy, but the chub is an integral part of this process that may represent a new growth opportunity. My source also pointed out another unacknowledged and mostly unnoticed application for chubs: dry sausages.  “After all, a pepperoni stick is basically a long chub,” he said.

Circling back to the more familiar territory of the retail meat case, chubs are also experiencing growth with chorizo sausages. This application falls right in the sweet spot. The packages are small, value-priced chubs, mostly 6 to 10 ounces, and must be produced with long, uninterrupted runs at high speeds. With the booming growth of ethnic Latin culture and cuisine in the U.S., this has the trappings of another win for chubs.

Yeah, the chub just keeps rolling along. No headline-grabbing heights and no severe lows, like the role player who everyone says doesn’t belong in the starting lineup but no one can seem to replace. Face it, this is a tough business and something that works tends to have staying power until market needs outstrip its capabilities or a more cost-effective option shows up. For those waiting for events to overtake chubs, consider settling in for the duration.