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Food Product Design: Design Elements - December 2000 - Adding Value to Meat Products

December 1, 2000

25 Min Read
Food Product Design: Design Elements - December 2000 - Adding Value to Meat Products

December 2000

Adding Value to Meat Products

By Paula Frank
Technical Editor

As key lifestyle patterns show consumers relying more on convenience items, food manufacturers react by offering value-added, timesaving products. The meat industry is no exception — offering not only new products, but new methods of enticing consumers to purchase and prepare various cuts of meat. The vast array of meat products available include items such as traditional fresh, raw cuts; new raw cuts in portion-sized shapes; and further-processed meats. These further-processed items take the form of pre-marinated and/or precooked meats, smoked sausage, luncheon or deli-type meats, shredded meats in barbecue sauce or sliced meats in gravy that merely require reheating, salad-ready precooked meat strips, breaded appetizer-sized portions and pre-marinated meat on skewers, among many others.

Sometimes, simply a new cut or new product offers added value, but other times both textural and flavor systems factor into the equation. Textural systems not only improve yields, but also aid in emulsification and help control bite. Flavor systems enhance the meat’s natural flavor and create menu diversity, a factor equally as important as convenience.

Divine bovine

Tony Mata, Ph.D., consultant for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA), Denver, and coordinator of the technical activity of the new products’ team, credits the "infusion of culinary art" into food product design as a valuable contribution to new product development. Food scientists are not always culinary masters, thus successful new product introductions often occur by bringing the food science and culinary art disciplines together.

Several new value-added products and concepts developed by the NCBA include the Rotiss-A-Roast™, a boneless beef filet, beef ham, veal bacon, a pre-marinated roast, fully cooked ground-beef crumbles and Cheeseburger Fries. While some of these products compete head-to-head with those that offer versatility and convenience in the poultry or pork markets, others save time-consuming preparation steps vs. traditional meals.

Choosing the cut for the Rotiss-A-Roast involved several criteria. The cut "had to fit into the environment of the world of rotisserie chicken," says Mata. Therefore, height dimension was key to ensuring an equivalent cook time to that of chicken. Muscle identification involved careful selection for tenderness and juiciness. "We identified one muscle from the round and two from the chuck which meet this criteria," he adds. "In terms of level of marinade, cook yield and amount of edible meat, rotisserie beef and chicken are quite similar." The meat is marinated at 15% to optimize quality. Once the beef is fully cooked, it may be held in a warmer not exceeding 140°F for up to two hours.

One of the drivers behind the development of the boneless beef filet was taking cuts that don’t fit into today’s busy lifestyle and making them easier to prepare, explains Susan Parenti, acting director, Beef and Veal Culinary Center, NCBA. Currently, many beef cuts are made up of several muscles. Different muscles have different cooking times and require different cooking methods. Separating individual muscles from the chuck (muscles typically used for pot roasts) and round provides the opportunity to derive steaks from these cuts. The boneless beef filet, marketed by No Name Steaks, is a "trimmed and portioned steak designed as an alternative to chicken breast, and for use as an ingredient as well as a center-of-the-plate item," says Jeff Johnson, marketing director of the St. Michael, MN-based company. "The challenge is utilizing all of the muscle and minimizing byproducts."

Cheeseburger Fries originated from the concept of converting the cheeseburger sandwich into a finger food that fits into an appetizer concept as well as a kid’s menu item. "It became clear that key deliverables were cheese identity, cheese flavor, beef texture and beef flavor," notes Mata. The prototype consists of ground beef blended with high-melt cheese and spices, which is then battered and breaded, and fried before serving. Additional testing is being done in two areas: using precooked meat and methods of co-extruding the cheese in the center surrounded by meat.

Beef ham, made from chuck, could be offered in Canadian bacon-style or as deli ham, looks and tastes like pork-derived ham. Veal bacon, made from smoked veal breast, is leaner than pork bacon, yet has a light, delicate flavor that smokes well, notes Parenti.

The NCBA adds value not only through new product introductions, but through retail programs designed to make beef preparation more user-friendly to consumers. One such program, called "Beef Made Easy," helps retailers reorganize their shelves by cooking method. Packages carry preparation methods, making items more consumer-friendly, explains Parenti.

Love meat tender

Meat tenderness is associated with the degree of quality. While certain cuts are prone towards tenderness based on their muscle source, others achieve tenderness through proper cooking technique and/or marinating prior to cooking. The meat industry adds value to its product by educating customers on proper handling techniques and recommending cooking procedures that ensure optimum quality.

Both tenderizing and hardening of meat occur with heat exposure. Heat causes protein denaturation, followed by protein coagulation, indicating loss of solubility, which reduces tenderness. Overcooking at high temperatures also toughens meat by causing excessive moisture loss. On the other hand, as heat and moisture are applied, collagen becomes more soluble, which increases tenderness. Heating meat melts intramuscular fat — this may not only reduce moisture loss, but it contributes to juiciness, and thus perceived palatability.

Dry-heat cooking works best for tender cuts of beef, such as steaks, chops, kabobs and some roasts. These roasts derive from beef rib, short loin, sirloin and selected cuts from the round, including the eye, tip and top. Since roasts originating from the round are very lean, the NCBA recommends purchasing high-quality branded beef, or Choice or Prime grades. As an alternative, eye round roasts and round tip roasts may be cooked under moist heat, where the meat is either braised or cooked in liquid. Chuck pot roasts, from the arm, blade or shoulder muscles, require moist cooking to achieve tenderness.

"Pork cuts with high connective tissue are best when prepared with a moist method of cookery," notes Becca Hendricks, strategic marketing manager, National Pork Producers Council (NPPC), Des Moines, IA. "Grilling, stir-frying and other methods of dry-heat cooking are usually done on more tender cuts of meat." For example, economical cuts from the shoulder and leg often require braising or cooking in broth. Smaller cuts, such as chops, tenderloin medallions, ham slices, ribs, pounded cutlets and ground patties, may be sautéed, pan-broiled, grilled or oven-broiled. Oven roasting is appropriate for loin roasts, shoulder roasts, whole hams and leg roasts.

Suppliers for meat processors strive to create value for their customers, just as meat processors do for retail and foodservice operators. One of the goals of research aimed at identifying meat tenderness involves improving efficiency at the farm level. Relating computerized data back to live animals can better control feeding. In addition, "30% of the variation in beef ribeye can be ascribed to heredity, which may involve expression of many genes," says Koohmaraie. Eventually, scientists hope to use genetics to identify gene combinations indicative of meat tenderness.

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This little piggy

"There are many new value-added products in the pork industry, with most focusing on increasing quality and optimizing convenience," notes Hendricks. "NPPC focuses on facilitating development of new uses and ideas for pork products that provide solutions for retailers and foodservice operators. Research has shown that consumers are interested in convenient products. Several ready-to-eat or precooked items, such as precooked bacon, and heat-and-eat roasts and chops are very popular. In the foodservice industry, many suppliers are providing operators with more convenient items also, including pre-marinated and ready-to-eat products."

Versatility offers both economic value and convenience to users of pork. The loin, for instance, provides a variety of menu options. These include chops; tenderloin; roasts; cutlets; strips; cubes; country-style ribs, the meatiest type of pork ribs; and back ribs, otherwise known as Canadian back or baby back ribs.

The ham, or pork leg, also provides a variety of fresh or cured and smoked cuts. The inside, or top muscle, found in applications such as roasts, cutlets, kebobs and strips, is the most tender cut. Roasts, ham strips and cubes come from the outside, or bottom muscle, which is an economical cut, although as a boneless cut, the tip or knuckle is even more economically priced. This cut, often cubed for braising or used in soups, is formed from a darker muscle.

Pork shoulder offers versatility in a variety of cuts, including both bone-in and boneless picnic, as well as Boston butt. The boneless picnic, for instance, lends itself to shredding, grinding, cubing and slicing once all bones, cartilage and skin are removed. Shoulder hocks, the portion remaining once the butt and picnic are removed, add flavor to soups and stocks.

Enhanced pork, an industry term referring to pumped pork products, delivers diversity beyond the array of raw pork cuts available. Marinated cuts are pumped with ingredients that add flavor, while basting refers to those cuts pumped with ingredients offering functionality other than flavor, explains Hendricks.

Crying fowl

Poultry processors offer a whole range of value-added convenient products to their customers. Both chicken and turkey are available as whole birds or in multiple cuts and pack sizes. Fresh chicken cuts include whole birds cut into breast, thigh, drumstick and wing pieces; breast quarters; halves or splits; wings; drumsticks; drummettes, made from the meatier portion of wing; leg quarters and thighs. Fresh turkey is cut into breast portions, legs, drumsticks and wings. Both chicken and turkey meat can be ground or made into nuggets, cutlets, tenders or sausage.

Boneless, skinless chicken breasts have popular appeal among health-conscious consumers and are a versatile item for recipe applications. The demand for dark meat derived from chicken legs is also on the rise. Skinless, boneless thigh meat may be used in applications similar to that of breast meat. Legs are typically priced lower than breast meat, which adds economic value to this option.

Pre-cooked chicken breast strips or dices are available for use directly from refrigerator to salads or other cold entrées – some seasoned Italian- or Southwestern-style, or perhaps roasted. A variety of frozen, breaded boneless products exist, such as filets, patties, tenders or chunks. These products require minimal preparation and are ideal for children and adults alike. For more gourmet tastes, stuffed chicken filets are an option, such as Cordon Bleu or chicken Kiev. Roasted heat-and-serve cuts in breasts, drumsticks, thighs, half-birds and wings are also convenient.

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Grinding it down

Many applications exist for ground meat, from burgers and sausage to specialty-type meats, such as gyros. Processed meats such as these contain ingredients that contribute flavor and textural properties; however, any meat labeled purely ground beef, pork, chicken, etc., does not have added ingredients, and is merely meat and fat.

Lean/fat ratios of ground beef vary depending on operator preference. "The average ground beef is approximately 80/20, but more operations are offering leaner grinds at a higher cost to the consumer," says Beth Timmins, executive vice president, Visionary Design, Atglen, PA. However, certain establishments tend towards higher-fat ratios so that product will be moist after being held in a warming unit prior to serving. For instance, ground beef for fast-food operations averages 23% to 24% fat.

Salt at a concentration of about 6.0% solubilizes the protein myosin. Since most finished processed meat products have a salt concentration of 2.5% or less, processors first mix the salt with a portion of the meat to achieve a 6.0% concentration to allow the salt/protein reaction to occur. The extracted myosin functions as a natural binder in the processed meat product.

Building in value

"There are several factors influencing the quality of a pre-formed meat product," notes Dafne Diez de Medina, Ph.D., group leader, meat applications, Innova, a Griffith Laboratories Company, Oak Brook, IL. "Texture and bite will mainly be determined by the type and quality of meat used, grinding parameters and the use of binders. Some meats are softer than others. The greater the amount of emulsion used, if any, the softer the bite compared to a coarser grind or whole muscle, which is firmer." Restructured meat made with trimmings or whole muscle uses the same chemical-binding principle as ground processed meats. "Through processing, chopping, tumbling or massage, one can free some of the proteins bound in the muscle, allowing for the formation of a binding system," explains Diez de Medina. "When a binder (i.e., starch, soy protein, carrageenan, etc.) is added into that system, the bond becomes stronger and will have different characteristics depending on the substance and process used. Consistency in size and density is obtained by forming the meat product in some kind of mold, be it a forming plate, or a template that provides a desired shape."

Meat restructuring adds value in several ways. It not only provides portion control, but also transforms low-value carcass trimmings. This technology enables processors to choose specific portions for forming, while eliminating unwanted connective tissue and fat, notes Hendricks.

Restructuring is advantageous for a variety of meats, particularly pork and poultry; however, its use for beef products is typically limited to fully cooked products used in sandwich applications, because it tends to give finished products a rubbery texture, notes Mata.

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Establishing a link

In processed meats, phosphates act as a buffer and shift the pH of the brining solution towards alkalinity. This pH shift creates more water-holding capacity as the number of charged groups on proteins increase. Meats with a pH range of 5.8 to 5.9 have greater affinity for water, and produce higher yields. Dryer products typically have a pH ranging from 5.5 to 5.6. Brine pH also influences cured-meat color by affecting nitrite stability, which is a critical component of the color-forming reaction. Nitrite is stable in brine as long as the pH remains above 7.0. When nitrite is unstable, it turns to nitric oxide, which will flash off prior to brine injection.

Phosphates also solubilize myosin, and have a synergistic effect with salt. Phosphates enable water to bind to the charged groups on the protein by disassociating bonds between actin and myosin filaments. Meats containing phosphates tend to be juicier and have less purge during cooking. Legally, phosphates must not exceed 0.5% in finished product.

Even after adding phosphates and salt, a product might require additional water to be bound. Here an ingredient such as starch becomes effective. "When protein denatures as the product is cooked, the starch will still hold onto the water," says Michelle Schwenk, food scientist, A.E. Staley Manufacturing Co., part of the Tate and Lyle Group, Decatur, IL. The choice of starch depends on several factors, such as the meat’s species, whether the product will be sliced thin and whether or not the starch needs to function in raw or cooked meat.

Potato starch is generally suitable for whole-muscle and poultry products, says Schwenk. "Potato starches start binding water at a lower temperature than the dent or corn starches do, so you’re going to use potato starches when you’re not going to have as high of a cooking temperature. The potato works nicely with poultry because it has a very clean flavor. A lot of poultry is sold whole muscle, and the potato starch, with its large granules, exerts an internal pressure that keep the muscle fibers together."

According to Schwenk, dent corn starch is suitable for meats that require firmness for slicing, because the amylose firms upon gelatinization. For meats requiring high water-binding capacity, such as bologna or hot dogs, she recommends a highly substituted waxy-maize starch. A small amount of cook-up starch may be used in uncooked marinated products, but must also be combined or replaced with an instant starch that doesn’t require heat for gelatinization. An instant starch with a slow hydration rate works best in this type of application. "You mix it into the brine and then vacuum tumble or inject it into the meat and over an hour’s time it hydrates so that it’s not developing any viscosity while it’s being applied," says Schwenk. "The starch binds water as it slowly hydrates."

Marinated meats contain between 20% and 30% added water, says Schwenk. The amount of marinade added should be equivalent to the percent pickup of the marinated meat; otherwise, a lot of brine will be wasted.

Select gums, such as carrageenan, sodium alginate, pectin, methylcellulose (MC) and carboxymethylcellulose (CMC), have functional binding properties in meats. These hydrocolloids form gels that impact both texture and mouthfeel. Each gum functions under a unique set of circumstances. For instance, sodium alginate gels in the presence of calcium ions.

Carrageenan is both hot- and cold-water soluble and forms gels in a variety of strengths and textures. Each carrageenan structure, be it kappa, iota or lambda, functions differently under certain conditions. Kappa carrageenan gels most strongly with potassium ions, and iota carrageenan with calcium ions. As another example, iota exhibits freeze/thaw stability, while the other two structures do not. As a result, gum suppliers are able to combine functional properties that suit particular applications. Gelatin also binds water and improves a meat’s slicing performance by forming a uniform gel upon cooling.

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Pump up the volume

Less-traditional ingredients, such as soy and dairy proteins, provide water binding in meats. Levels of dairy proteins and isolated soy protein in products labeled as meat must not exceed 3.5% and 2.0% respectively by weight of finished product. Nonfat dry milk and whey protein concentrate form gels in the meat’s protein matrix, adding to structural stability. In addition, these ingredients provide stability to emulsions.

Soy protein may be added to meat products in the form of isolates, concentrates, flour (or grits) or textured. Soy protein helps water absorption and binding, gelation, emulsification and fat absorption. Although soy protein is used more frequently in comminuted products, it may also be incorporated into the brine solution for whole-muscle meats. Textured soy protein may replace as much as 20% to 25% of ground meat in patties, which adds both to the nutritional appeal, as well as the economical value of the product.

Blood plasma is an effective binding agent that forms a strong gel in restructured meats. It may also be used in comminuted meats for its emulsifying properties. Enzymes, such as transglutaminase, also help bind restructured meat products. This enzyme crosslinks proteins to form a covalent bond. Use of this enzyme impacts texture and bite, and holds much potential for operators requiring consistently portioned meats made from restructured pieces that minimize waste.

Meat processors have experimented with adding fruits to enhance texture of processed meats. One product with extensive testing in this area is dried plum puree. The functional components are fiber and sorbitol. The fiber (around 7.5% by weight of dried plums) absorbs moisture, while sorbitol (about 15%) helps bind the water in the meat product. Added levels of 3% to 5% dried plum puree to meat products results in a juicier mouthfeel and extended shelf life with no discernable change in the flavor of the meat. While most work has be done in comminuted products such as hamburgers, hot dogs, sausage and pizza toppings, dried plum puree has potential as an ingredient for injected marinades.

The raisin is another ingredient that offers a textural advantage to meats and sausages. "Raisins are about 18% moisture, and absorb up to an additional 10% moisture," notes Thomas J. Payne, principal, Thomas J. Payne Market Development and consultant to the California Raisin Marketing Board (CRMB), Fresno, CA. "This moisture is slowly released during the cooking process. In addition, raisins have a chewy texture, which can be integrated into meats and sausages. For instance, in Finland, the main use for raisins is a processed liver paté, and French and Belgian sausage makers integrate raisins into their products."

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Delivering the goods

Marinating is one method used for delivering flavor and functional ingredients to meat. Basically, a marinade is a liquid seasoning, applied either through injection; as a static marinade; or "as a tumble marinade, preferably under vacuum to facilitate penetration of the delivery system into the meat and at the same time promote water and ingredient binding into the protein system," explains Diez de Medina. "The main consideration in choosing a system depends on the equipment available, the type of product (i.e., bone-in, whole chicken, filet) and the final characteristics desired."

Marinades may contain antimicrobial ingredients, such as sodium lactate, in addition to the other functional ingredients added, such as buffers, binders or emulsifiers. These antimicrobials, which help extend shelf life, include sodium lactate, potassium lactate and sodium diacetate.

Flavors and functional ingredients are also delivered to meat products in glazes, sauces, rubs and/or breadings. "Many times, flavors are used in complementary systems. For instance, a glaze may complement a marinade, or a rub with added visual appeal may blend well with a marinade that delivers flavor," explains Diez de Medina.

Adding flavors, seasonings and/or a flavor system to meat often enhances its appeal. "One of the main benefits of using flavors is that they can replace characteristics lost during processing or cooking, or they can mimic certain notes created during specific processes, for example, grilling, smoking, roasting, etc.," says Diez de Medina. "Flavors add value to meat products by allowing the creation of consistent, more complex profiles in a meat product, and do so in an economic and efficient manner."

Enhancing appeal

Flavors come in several forms, including dry powders, liquids and pastes. Certain flavors, called bases, are made into a paste or a dry form. Dry powdered bases remain stable at room-temperature dry storage. "Shelf-stable bases are available in paste form that have salt as the first ingredient and contain a low-moisture, premium condensed meat broth, which inhibits bacterial growth," says Frank Gervato, president and chief technical officer, Eatem Foods, Vineland, NJ. "These bases should be refrigerated after opening and exposure to airborne bacteria."

Meat-first food bases contain a high percentage of freshly cooked meat, in addition to meat juices and fat, and therefore require refrigerated storage. "Meat-first bases provide consistent, authentic meat flavor to finished products," says Bill Hahne, corporate executive chef, Eatem Foods, and president of the Research Chefs Association.

In fact, meat bases are in and of themselves value-added meat products. "These bases cut back or entirely eliminate the need for raw meat as a source for real meat flavor in certain applications," notes Gervato. In addition, they save on raw meat processing and handling, and help eliminate waste. Meat bases not only add real meat flavor to sauces, demi-glace and gravy applications, but also eliminate time-consuming cooking procedures involved in making meat stocks traditionally used as a base material in the preparation of these products, adds Hahne.

Flavor systems often benefit from the use of flavor enhancers, such as monosodium glutamate (MSG), hydrolyzed vegetable protein (HVP), disodium inosinate and disodium guanylate (I+g) or 5'nucleotides and autolyzed yeast extract (AYE). Enhancers highlight and round flavor nuances and contribute to an umami effect. Ingredients such as these work particularly well in savory applications. "The organic acids of raisins also enhance flavors and help impart a more intense spice note," says Payne. The raisins’ mild flavor and sweetness complement the salty, savory notes found in many meat applications.

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Smoke is used to impart nuances of various cooking techniques, be it grilling, roasting or rotisserie cooking. Smoke can change texture by cross-linking proteins at the meats’ surface, contributing to skin formation. Color changes can also occur. "The three main components of smoke are acid; phenolics, which is where most of your flavor comes from; and carbonyls, which give you the color," notes Ed Emmerson, technical service field representative, Red Arrow Products, Co., Manitowoc, WI.

Red Arrow manufactures liquid smoke products in one of two ways: using either an older process called the Calciner method, or by using a newer technology called the rapid thermal pyrolysis, or RTP. "The RTP process is faster and involves higher temperatures," says Emmerson. "Fifteen years ago, everybody perceived liquid smoke as very bitter and harsh, but the products generated from the process used today tend to be mellower and more closely match vaporous smoke."

Product developers can choose from many different varieties of smoke. Smoke derived from hickory and the mixed hardwoods are very similar. Emmerson describes mesquite as having more of an "earthy" flavor.

Strength may be controlled in several ways, either at the application level or by product choice itself. "By using a more refined smoke, such as those generated by RTP, also referred to as the second-generation smoke, you get a product that is smoother or mellower. Some producers want ashiness in their smoke, which is associated with a more traditional flavor profile," notes Emmerson. "Producers can also vary their usage levels or smoking times if they’re doing atomization. With drenching, contact time and solution strength can also be controlled."

"Sometimes harshness is partially due to the acidity normally associated with liquid smoke. Smoke oil, which does not contain any of the acids, may be an alternative to someone looking for less harshness," says Ray Nemunaitis, vice president, sales and marketing, Hickory Specialties Inc., Brentwood, TN. "You may have a pH-adjusted smoke that’s used in certain applications to get around the harshness or the acidity. Plus, the phenolic load can be adjusted to deliver the desired product," adds Pat Moeller, vice president, R&D, Hickory Specialties.

Color formation occurs because of surface dehydration and the carbonyls’ reaction with meat’s surface protein. This reaction is driven by heat and is similar to the Maillard reaction. Dry heat actually sets the color, but at some point during the process, humidity must be factored in, otherwise yields will be compromised as moisture loss occurs, explains Emmerson. Color formation is often important for products that are going to be microwaved or reheated, such as cook-in-bag products or pork ribs that require a nice brown color for eye-appeal, notes Nemunaitis.

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Meat under wraps

Packaging not only provides meat with a protective environment, but can be an attractive and convenient means of storage. "Vacuum packaging, for over 50 years now, has been a primary tool for maintaining the natural quality of the product," says Burton Lundquist, packaging consultant for the NCBA and former director of packaging for Armour Food Company, Omaha, NE. "The big thing that has changed is the way suppliers have made film. They continually improve the performance of the film (i.e., the moisture barrier, the oxygen barrier and machinability)."

Traditional vacuum packaging used film that wrapped around a product. Modern technology uses thermoform film, structured so that it can be heated and drawn into a pocket. The film is composed of a layer of nylon and a couple layers of polyethylene (PE). A layer of ethylene vinyl alcohol serves as an oxygen barrier. Finally, a layer of PE functions as a sealing agent. "The film is heated to a molten state and drawn down by pressure or vacuum into a pocket that is essentially the shape of the product," explains Lundquist. "There is some shrink-back after the package is formed. Once the product is filled, it goes into a vacuum chamber, where a vacuum is drawn around the outside, as well as the inside of the package. Air is then completely evacuated."

Although the film thins out substantially as its drawn into a vacuum, it still maintains its strength while providing excellent moisture- and oxyge- barrier properties. For instance, a 1-lb. hot dog package can draw down from 0.004 in. to between 0.0004-in. and 0.0006-in. thickness without compromising packaging integrity, notes Lundquist. Vacuum-packages of fresh meat are commonly frozen in a non-oxygen barrier film to help maintain the color of the product.

Modified atmosphere packaging (MAP) inhibits or slows bacterial growth by incorporating nitrogen and occasionally carbon dioxide into the package. Most of the time, MAP is used for fragile products, because vacuum packaging could crush the product or cause pieces to stick together, notes Lundquist. For instance, MAP is used for breaded products, because vacuum packaging compacts the breading, making it tough. Both vacuum and MAP packaging help extend a product’s shelf life by limiting oxygen exposure. Oxygen absorbers can help reduce residual oxygen left from MAP packaging. An oxygen absorber may consist of an iron product in a packet or as a label or liner used inside a product’s lid leaving nothing loose in the package’s interior.

Freezer burn occurs when moisture evaporates off the surface of a frozen product causing dehydration. As a result, the product also becomes susceptible to oxidative rancidity. Lundquist recommends vacuum packaging when freezing meats, because this process leaves the film in intimate contact with the meat’s surface, which helps prevent freezer burn. Although aluminum foil is a good oxygen barrier, close contact with the meat’s surface isn’t always possible. Thus, freezer burn can occur with foil-wrapped packages.

Regardless of the method used in adding value to meat products, one of the biggest challenges the food industry faces is convincing the consumer that quality hasn’t been compromised for convenience. "How do you win over consumers who feel that meat requires slow cooking with savory vegetables, or a long marinating time with just the right seasonings in order to be tender, juicy and well-seasoned?" asks Lori Miller, R.D., L.D., director of market development for Eatem Foods. This, perhaps, is a question meat product developers ought to consider as they face technical challenges involved in maintaining a meat’s texture, juiciness and flavor.

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