Seeking Innovative Meat Flavouring and Preserving Technologies
We are working with a food manufacturing business and brand owner whose products include cured, chilled meat. Curing is a traditional preservation process used to impart colour, flavour and texture to some meats, in addition to food safety control against pathogens. The curing process combines several elements (e.g. use of a brine, hanging, tumbling/manipulating, forming and cooking) over a number of days/weeks/months, to produce a variety of tastes and textures in the end products, e.g. a traditional cured, sliced ham. This process also requires the addition of nitrates/nitrites (in the form of the brine), which are injected into the raw meat and/or used to immerse it, before further processing.There is research suggesting that the use of nitrates/nitrites can cause potential health issues, through the formation of potentially carcinogenic nitrosamines. It is for this reason that food processors and retailers are exploring alternative ingredients, e.g. vegetable powders containing natural sources of nitrates, to reduce the impact on the human body. However, replicating the physical appearance, as well as texture and flavour of premium quality meat has been problematic when using alternative ingredients and the chilled environments required for food processing.The client is therefore actively searching for a step-change in potential solutions to replicate the meat curing process (and subsequent physical appearance/flavour) without the use of added nitrates/nitrites. The compounds to be replaced provide several functions, and so any alternative solutions should have quality parity to current premium ham products in the market place and enable one or more of the following:-▪ Retention of fibrous texture of cooked meat▪ Characteristic pinkish colour and cured flavour▪ Food safety/shelf-life stability / production of toxic compoundsSolutions which can only provide some of the functionalities above would be interesting if a combination with other methods could lead to a replacement / reduction in the use of nitrites in the process.