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In German supermarkets, minced meat is usually sold in a plastic box under what’s described as a “Schutzatmosphere” (protective atmosphere). It looks like this: enter image description here

Not visible in this image, the meat is always placed on a sheet of paper. Why is that done? I haven’t found the meat to stick to the plastic more than to the paper, and I can’t think of a reason why the meat would go bad faster without the paper. Also, the plastic boxes usually have a grill-shaped bottom, so the meat would probably not sit in any liquid coming from it.

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  • 2
    As the existing answers are going for the 'obvious', in my experience this comes in three forms 1. just a sheet of paper, looks a bit like greaseproof & is barely more absorbent. 2. A thicker 'pad' with some patterning embossed in it. 3. an actual 'plastic bag' full of obviously absorbent material [ this usually for pork not mince beef]. Of the three, the plain paper seems to serve no actual function, unless it's what is needed to get that portion from mincer to box without spilling.
    – unlisted
    Jun 22 '20 at 11:11
  • I suspect @Tetsujin has the right idea, and the thin sheet of paper is there for handling the meat in the factory. I have no proof for this, though.
    – LSchoon
    Jun 22 '20 at 17:18
  • @Tetsujin : I usually call #2 a "meat diaper". My friends don't appreciate the name, though.
    – Joe
    Jun 23 '20 at 1:37
  • @tetsujin It's like what you describe first
    – Philipp
    Jun 23 '20 at 20:04
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The paper isn't for you. It's for the robots.

Packaged ground meat like that is ground, portioned, and packaged automatically. The blocks of ground meat are formed by extruding them into an endless strip which is chopped into blocks and moved around on conveyor belts. To prevent the meat from adhering to the belts or falling between them, the strip is formed on a roll of waxed paper, which is sliced with the rest of the meat and remains on the bottom of the blocks through the remainder of the processing. It's not important to remove the paper, so they don't bother.

You can see an example of the technique at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wPRea1f8sg4 .

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Can't tell from the picture, but in many places the "paper" is actually absorbent. It collects any juices, keeping things looking neat and tidy.

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    I am quite sure that the OP is not talking about the absorbing pads, but something that looks like a small sheet of parchment / baking paper / wax paper... version 1 in Tetsujin’s comment under the question
    – Stephie
    Jun 22 '20 at 14:52
  • @Stephie...perhaps...
    – moscafj
    Jun 22 '20 at 16:20
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    Uh, knowing the product in the picture (remember, I am from Germany), I am quite confident. ;-). This is still a good answer, just the wrong premise.
    – Stephie
    Jun 22 '20 at 16:21
  • @Stephie...no offense taken...
    – moscafj
    Jun 22 '20 at 18:38
  • @stephie you are correct. If it's absorbant at all, then only very little.
    – Philipp
    Jun 23 '20 at 20:05
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The paper is there to protect the meat from the juices that can accumulate in the bottom.

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  • "Protect" in what sense?
    – Sneftel
    Jun 22 '20 at 11:40
  • from floating in its own juice.
    – Max
    Jun 22 '20 at 12:44
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    @Max What would be bad about the meat sitting in its own juice? How does the thin sheet of paper protect against this?
    – LSchoon
    Jun 22 '20 at 17:14
  • And non-rotting ground meat won't release enough juices to float in. This is a reasonable guess, but it's wrong.
    – Sneftel
    Jun 23 '20 at 20:49

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