Steps in the Cold Supply Chain

Steps in the Cold Supply Chain

Many products we purchase need careful temperature control before they reach our homes. Certain foods, medicines, and flowers pass through several steps in the cold supply chain, which protects products from growth or manufacturing to delivery by limiting natural decomposition. Decomposition is slowest in cool or extremely cold environments and fastest when drastic temperature changes take place or when the product heats up. This guide will focus exclusively on grown products, but manufactured goods also need careful management to ensure effectiveness.

Growth or Manufacturing

First, farmers grow their crops. Many crops reach a thermal death point in high temperatures. Even if this doesn’t happen, heat inhibits nutrient absorption and plant shoot establishment. Few interventions can adequately address temperature at this stage, apart from genetically modifying the crops so that they can cope with extreme temperatures.


After harvest, the first active step in the cold supply chain is precooling the product. The first part of this process involves moving the crops to tents for shade. Afterward, those handling the harvest place the crops in a temperature-controlled setting with a consistently elevated humidity level. This precooling also necessitates plenty of ventilation.


When the product is waiting for transport, it’s stored for some time in warehouses. Temperature-controlled storage is an increasingly important feature, as more people are buying food online. E-commerce giants, including Walmart and Amazon, rely on ready-to-ship food storage now more than ever.

Refrigerated Transportation

When the food is ready for market, it’s loaded onto refrigerated trucks, cargo ships, or trains and delivered. Properly storing food during transportation is vastly important—if temperatures vary or if the product isn’t separate from pests, excess moisture, bacteria, and more, it will spoil. This preparation is important for all points of transfer, too. If handlers expose the product to outside elements at any point, there’s a risk of faster deterioration.

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