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How Are Potatoes Transported: Spud Shipping Temperatures

March 15, 2024
 By Joe Weaver
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How Are Potatoes Transported: Spud Shipping Temperatures
Last Modified: March 15, 2024
Buying or selling potatoes wholesale? Find out how are potatoes transported to ensure optimum condition and flavor upon arrival From Yukon golds to Idaho russets, we lay out the temperature requirements for spoil-free transport.

How are potatoes transported? Like any good produce, potatoes have specific shipping requirements. Temperature and humidity must be kept at certain levels during transit. This prevents spoiling and keeps the potatoes fresh and delicious when they arrive at their destination. You might find this process surprisingly difficult without the correct equipment.

The International Institute of Refrigeration states that transporting bulk potatoes requires precise temperature control, usually between 3°C to 10°C. Refrigerated trucks are used to manage temperature and humidity in transit. This is essential to keep the potatoes fresh and delicious upon arrival at market.

Are you looking for information about transporting spuds? If so, join us as we review the conditions necessary to move bulk shipments of potatoes from farm to market and beyond.

How Are Potatoes Transported to Market: Processing and Preparation

How are potatoes transported? The first step after harvesting is to run them through a tumbler, such as the one pictured here, to remove excess dirt.

Potatoes go through a thorough preparation process before they ever reach a truck. This is done to ensure the spuds reach their destination ready fresh and ready to be boiled, mashed, or stuck in a stew. 

The process for preparing potatoes for transport usually looks like this:

  1. Curing: This toughens the outer skin, which helps prevent damage during transportation. 
  2. Sorting and Grading: Once cured, potatoes are sorted and graded based on size, quality, and type. Any rotten or overly soft potatoes are thrown out.
  3. Packing: Potatoes are then packed into breathable containers, such as ventilated crates or mesh bags. These containers promote airflow around the potatoes, which is crucial for maintaining proper humidity during shipment.
  4. Chilling: The packed potatoes are chilled to within a few degrees of their transport temperature. This gets the potatoes used to the cooler conditions of transport, reducing the risk of condensation and spoilage.
  5. Loading: The harvest is loaded onto refrigerated (reefer) trucks. Loading is planned to ensure proper ventilation within the truck.
  6. Temperature and Humidity Check: The carrier double checks temperature and humidity levels in the truck and adjusts them as necessary. 

The conditions under which curing and transportation should take place vary based on factors we’ll discuss further on in the article.

Do Potatoes Need Reefer?

Stacks of potatoes inside mesh bags.

You might still be wondering if the hardy, humble potato even requires refrigerated shipping in the first place.  The short answer? Yes, but not always. Let’s dig a bit deeper into this question.

The need for a refrigerated truck depends on several factors, including:

  • The number of potatoes being transported
  • Total shipping distance of the shipment
  • Outside/ambient temperatures 

If you’re just hauling a few bushels to a nearby destination where they’ll be used within a matter of days, refrigerated transport might not be necessary. However, potatoes are shipped via reefer truck when a long haul and/or long-term storage are required. Reefer trucks have adjustable temperature controls and ventilation. These features work together to keep humidity at required levels.

Before we dig into shipping temperatures, it’s essential to understand the differences between seed, table, and processing potatoes.

Seed Potato vs Table Potato vs Processing Potatoes

Inspectors checking the quality of several potatoes arranged in a processing trough.

Not all potatoes are created equal. Depending on certain qualities (or lack thereof), these tubers are classified as either table, seed, or processing potatoes.

Let’s break down these categories:

  • Seed Potatoes

Selected for their genetic qualities and used for planting new potato crops, their purpose is to ensure a healthy, disease-resistant yield for the next season.

  • Table Potatoes 

These are the potatoes you find in your local supermarket or grocery store, intended for direct consumption. They come in many varieties such as russet, red, and Yukon gold.

  • Processing Potatoes

Spuds that aren’t aesthetically pleasing are usually processed into potato chips, french fries, and frozen potato products like hash browns and tater tots.

Each type of potato calls for slightly different shipping conditions. 

Armed with this information, we can look at the different shipping requirements for each type of tater.

Potato Transport Temperatures: From Farm to Table

An overhead view of several bushels of potatoes.

In the table below, you’ll find the optimum temperatures and humidity ranges for curing potatoes and transporting them via reefer truck.

Potato Transport Temperatures

ProcessOptimum Temperature (°F)Optimum Temperature (°C)Humidity Range
Curing55°F – 70°F13°C – 21°C85% – 95%
Table Potato Transportation45°F7°C90% – 95%
Seed Potato Transportation39°F 4°C90% – 95%
Processing Potato Transportation50°F10°C90% – 95%

If potatoes aren’t properly refrigerated and aerated during shipment, they’re at risk of developing the following conditions: 

  • Freezing injury/freezer burn
  • Blackheart (from lack of oxygen)
  • Accelerated sprouting from ethylene gas buildup
  • Rot

It’s also important to keep sunlight exposure to a minimum. Otherwise, your potatoes may turn green from chlorophyll production. This indicates the presence of harmful chemicals that shouldn’t be ingested.

No one wants to eat squishy, rotten potatoes that taste bitter. To ensure your fresh potatoes don’t get refused by the buyer, it’s a great idea to partner with proven experts in cold chain logistics.

Bulk Potato Transport With USA Refrigerated Freight

The American appetite for potatoes is insatiable, and all produce shippers can benefit from working with carriers who know how to ship potatoes in large quantities across the country. That’s where we come in.

At USA Refrigerated Freight, you’ll find experts with the vehicles and equipment necessary for effective road transport of potatoes. Trust us with all of your temperature-sensitive shipments, including:

  • Produce
  • Pharmaceuticals
  • Electronics
  • And more

Call our cold-chain experts at (866) 849-4923 or get a risk-free quote today. We’ll make sure your shipment of taters is handled with care.

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