This section of the Food Science Facts covers products produced from Red Meat, Poultry and Seafood. We are only discussing processed foods, not fresh products produced from these raw materials. There are a wide variety of products that can be discussed in this area and I have mentioned just a few. If there are any other red meat, poultry or seafood products you would like more information on, please let me know and we can discuss in future blogs.
Red Meat and Poultry – There are some definitions and Standards that the FSANZ Food Standard Code covers for Red Meat and Poultry that you should be aware of before we start this discussion. The Standard of our Food Standards Code that covers Meat and Meat Products is Standard 2.2.1. This standard can be found through the following link – http://www.foodstandards.gov.au/code/Pages/default.aspx
The Food Standards Code defines –
- Manufactured Meat as processed meat containing no less than 660g/kg of meat. Examples of Manufactured Meat includes Ham and Bacon
- Processed Meats must not contain less than 300g/kg of meat. Products such as Devon or Windsor.
- A sausage consists of meat that has been minced or finely ground or a mixture of both, whether or not mixed with other foods and which has been encased or formed into discrete units.
- Offal includes blood, brain, heart, kidney, liver, pancreas, spleen, thymus, tongue or tripe and excludes meat flesh, bone and bone marrow. Products containing offal must be labelled as containing offal in the ingredient listing.
Meat means the whole or part of the carcass of animals including buffalo, cattle camel, deer, goat, hare, pig, poultry, rabbit or sheep. Meat flesh is meat that consists of skeletal muscle and attached rind, fat, connective tissue, nerve, blood, blood vessels or skin (in the case of poultry).
If a meat or poultry product consists of raw meat that has been re-formed or joined to resemble a cut of meat it must be declared as formed or joined and have the appropriate cooking instructions to ensure the food is microbiologically safe when consumed. It is critical to ensure raw meat products are fully cooked before consuming. “The information above is based on content from the Federal Register of Legislation at 5/11/2017. For the latest information on Australian Government law please go to https://www.legislation.gov.au.”
Before we start, I’d like to define some terminology that we will be using throughout this section. The texture of meat and poultry products can vary greatly from fine emulsions to coarse and chunky. A meat emulsion is used to make products such as liverwurst or BBQ sausages. Emulsions are where the ingredients are very finely ground into a smooth even paste. Emulsions can be used in products either by themselves or they can also be used as a base to support larger pieces of meat or fat. These pieces are called the showface meat as they present when the product is sliced. For example fat chunks in a slice of mortadella or large pieces of meat or fat in a chorizo sausage.
Along with the meat there are a range of ingredients used in the production of meat and poultry products. Some of these ingredients have been used for hundreds of years to ensure the meat products we consume are safe in terms of the microbial load they contain, especially if the product isn’t cooked before consumption such as a salami. It’s critical that meat products are safe to consume and manufacturers have to adhere to strict processing standards to ensure their products are safe.
Now let’s talk about some types of meat products and we will discuss some of the more common ingredients that are common to all these food products at the end in the Meat Ingredients section. –
Sausage – There are a huge range of sausages available containing a wide variety of ingredients at differing levels of quality. Sausages can be made from a single variety of meat or combination of. Common Sausage meats include beef, veal, pork, chicken, kangaroo, and lamb. Sausages can be sold as fresh (BBQ sausages), fully cooked, cured or fermented (Salami), dried, and/or smoked depending on the type of sausage being made. Pre-cooked sausages can be filled into different types of casings before cooking and/or smoking. They are then sold as either a skin on sausages, like a frankfurts or they have the casing removed and are sold as a skin off sausage, such as a skinless hotdog.
Fresh and cooked sausages are available in a wide range of flavours, sizes and textures depending on the manufacturer and the tradition or history around that variety of sausage. The amount and quality of meat in the sausage can also vary. Chicken and Fresh sausages do not contain any ingredients for curing or colour development as they have a much shorter shelf life than cured products and are usually consumed fairly soon after purchasing.
The ingredients of sausages can include in no particular order – water, proteins, flours, starches, salt, sugar, preservatives 223, phosphates (450, 451, 452), hydrolysed vegetable protein, herbs, spices, vegetables, vegetable extract, yeast extract, flavours, colours, smoke and the casing. For cured sausages such as Kabana or Cabanossi further ingredients are added to develop the cured colour, maintain the eating quality and the food safety of the sausage. These ingredients include antioxidants 316, acidity regulators 326 and 261, and preservative (250) the functions of which we will discuss in the Meat Ingredient section.
Sausages are packed into 3 different types of casings. The first is a natural gut casing. This casing is usually sourced from pig gut but can also come from sheep. You can always tell a product in a natural casing as the finished sausage is uneven in width and size and looks more natural. Collagen casings are the other option commonly used for mass produced sausages such as BBQ sausages. Collagen casings are manufactured from beef collagen. The hides go through a number of processing steps to make a collagen paste which is then extruded to different widths and colours for different applications. Examples of this type of casing is the red casing commonly used for hot dogs. Products filled into collagen casings are very easy to identify as they are the same width the whole way along the sausage. Collagen casings are cheaper, provide a consistent product and are easier to use than natural casings in large scale production situations. The other type of casing is fairly new onto the Australian market and consists of a vegetarian casing produced from Alginate, derived from seaweed. The alginate is made into a paste and extruded with the sausage meat. The alginate is then set forming a skin around the sausage.
Burgers and Meatballs – Burgers and meatballs are portions of minced meat mixed with other ingredients for bulking, binding and flavour. They are formed into round balls for meatballs or flattened burgers or patties. Products can come in raw fresh or frozen patties, or cooked chilled or frozen products. The ingredients used in these products can include in no particular order – starches, flours, proteins, gluten, salt, vegetables dried and fresh, sugars (sucrose, dextrose), mineral salts (508, 451), preservative (223, 220), flavours, food acids (300, 330), spices, herbs, spice extracts, colours, flavour enhancers (635), semolina, plant fibres, oil, thickener (407), bread crumbs and water. More information on these ingredients can be found in the Meat Ingredients section below.
Bacon, Ham & Smallgoods –
In Australia Bacon and Ham products are typically manufactured from Pork. In other countries of the world however, bacon can be made from a range of other meat sources.
Bacon in Australia is usually produced by curing pork belly and the loin muscle of the pig by injecting a brine into the meat before drying, fully cooking and/or smoking. This brine contains salt plus other curing ingredients, ingredients to develop the characteristic pink colour of bacon and flavourings such as liquid smoke. The pork belly portion is the tail of the rasher which is also called streaky bacon. The loin is the head of the rasher and can be processed by itself to form shortcut bacon. Joined together the product is called middle bacon and is available with the rind on or the rind off.
Ingredients used for Bacon are similar to those used for hams and can include in no specific order – pork, sugars (sucrose, dextrose), salt, mineral salts (450, 451, 452, 508), gums (407, 415), antioxidant (316), smoke, flavours and preservatives (250). More information on these can be found in the Meat Ingredients section below. Smoke can be added into bacon either by using a liquid smoke or it can be added into the cooking chamber or “smokehouse” while cooking by burning specific types of wood or wood chips. The most common woods used in Australia for smoking are hickory or beachwood. Bacon is available either fully cooked or par-cooked and needs to be cooked before consumption.
Hams are produced either by injecting a brine into large prime cuts of pork (either with the bone in or bone out) or by tumbling smaller cuts with the brine before filling into different sized casings and cooking with or without the addition of smoke. The brine is made up of water with all the other brine ingredients dissolved into it. The brine is injected directly into the meat to ensure the brine is evenly dispersed throughout the muscle.
The ingredients used to produce Hams can include in no particular order – Pork, water, salt, acidity regulators (326, 262 and 261), proteins, sugars (sucrose, dextrose), mineral salts (450, 451, 508), starches, thickeners (407) antioxidants (300, 316) and sodium nitrite (250 and 252), smoke, and in some cases oil. More information on these ingredients can be found in the Meat Ingredients section.
As with bacon, smoke can be added to the brine as liquid smoke, actual smoke from the burning of wood chip that is pumped into the Smokehouse or cooking chamber, or by dipping the product into a smoke solution prior to cooking. This is commonly used on a black forest or triple smoked ham to develop a dark brown/black surface on the outside of the product which looks attractive when shaved or sliced. Ham does not need to be cooked before eating as it is fully cooked by the manufacturer.
Salami – Salamis are fermented dried meat products and are produced throughout the world with many countries or region having their own variety. It’s critical when making salami to control the bacterial growth of the starter culture, the pH and water activity of the product to maintain food safety and provide maximum shelf life as Salamis are not fully cooked. Different types of meats, seasonings and other ingredients are used depending on the recipe and traditions of that type of salami. Minced or diced meat and fat is mixed with the started culture and other ingredients and filled into casings. They are hung to ferment and dry for a period of time until the required level of fermentation has occurred, the pH has dropped and the correct water activity is achieved. The Salamis are then heated to stop the fermentation process before cooling and packing. Salamis can be smoked or unsmoked.
The casings that are usually used for large Salami products is one that can be easily peeled to remove before slicing or shaving. This casing is called a fibrous casing and it allows moisture to evaporate during the drying process shrinking around the salami as it loses moisture. Salami can also be filled into small edible natural or collagen casings that don’t need to be removed for snacking as for a salami stick.
The starter culture used in the Salami is a specific bacteria chosen for its fermentation time. The ingredients commonly used in Salami include in no particular order – Meat, salt, spices, herbs, sugars (sucrose, lactose, dextrose, maltodextrin), powdered and dehydrated vegetables, vegetable fibre, herb & spice extracts, milk solids, sodium nitrite (250), sodium nitrate (251), antioxidants (316, 301), flavours, wood smoke and a starter culture.
Poultry – The term poultry includes birds that have been bred domestically by humans for their eggs, meat and feathers. They typically include chickens, turkey’s, ducks and quails. Chicken is currently the most consumed meat in Australia with a large variety of processed poultry products available for consumers. These include different cuts of fresh meat, marinaded fresh cuts, smallgoods and frozen fully processed products either fresh or fully cooked.
Marinated Fresh Chicken – There is a huge range of marinated fresh chicken available from butterflied or split whole chickens, to wings, drumsticks, maryland’s, kebabs and whole birds ready to roast. The marinade can either be put on the outside of the bird or pieces in the form of a wet marinade or a dry rub, or it can be injected into the meat. To keep the succulence of roast chicken meat, whole birds are injected with a brine mixture very similar to a ham. The brine mixture helps to keep the meat succulent and tender and prevents the meat from becoming dry and tough. This is especially important when cooked product is kept hot after cooking for a period of time, or when the bird is a large size and requires a long cooking time.
Chicken and Turkey Smallgoods – Chicken and Turkey loaf is a fully cooked, easy to use lightly flavoured chicken or turkey based product made form minced poultry meat, salt, water, starches, flavouring ingredients, proteins, mineral salts and preservatives. These products are not usually cured remaining white or off white in colour.
Smoked chicken is usually cured which develops the pink colouring and helps extend the shelf life. The smoking process also provides a lovely golden colour to the outside of the bird and a delicious smokey flavour throughout. The curing brine is injected into the meat to ensure even distribution before the meat is hung up and fully cooked in a smokehouse. Ingredients include salt, sugar, antioxidants, mineral salts (451, 452), and sodium nitrite (251). For more information on these ingredients please see the Meat Ingredients section below.
Poultry Sausage & Mince products – A range of chicken sausages, meatloaf, burgers and meatballs are available. These include minced chicken blended with a range of ingredients including flours, salt, vegetable fibres, preservatives, mineral salts, food acids, vegetables and flavourings including herbs and spices. They can be filled into natural hog, collagen or alginate casings and can be a range of qualities and prices. For more information please see the meat ingredients section below.
Frozen Chicken Products – Most of the frozen chicken options available in the freezer are made up of mince and reformed chicken meat that is fully cooked and coated with either a batter or crumb. These products don’t require preservatives as they are usually fully cooked and IQF or individually quick frozen to keep pathogenic bacteria to an absolute minimum. These products contain similar ingredients to frozen seafood including meat, proteins, gums or thickeners, phosphates, flavours, ingredients for the batter or crumb coating, and oil from the flash-frying process which seals the coating. More information on these ingredients can be found below in the Meat Ingredients section. For more information on Poultry and Chicken please see the links below –
Seafood – The consumption of seafood in Australia continues to rise every year with the range of new fresh, frozen and chilled seafood products constantly expanding in response to consumer demand for high quality, convenient products. There are so many products available it’s impossible to cover them all. For this section we will be touching on some of the processed seafood products available, not fresh seafood. If you would like further information on products that are not listed here, please let me know. –
Frozen Fish & Seafood – The range of frozen seafood available is extensive with prawns, squid, octopus, calamari, muscles, and fish commonly found in the freezer. Frozen seafood can be cooked or uncooked, glazed, marinated, sauced, crumbed, or battered.
Frozen fish fillets – Available either uncoated, marinated, glazed, crumbed or battered whole fillets or portions of fillets.
Reformed fish pieces are made out of minced fish of either one type of a blend of different species of fish. These are often frozen into blocks and cut into different shapes before crumbing. Phosphates are added to the minced fish to bind the fish together and prevent it from falling apart during cooking and eating.
Whole fillets, fish portions and reformed fish can be put through a coating process, usually a pre-dust, batter and crumb or variations of, and then flash fried to set the crumb coating before oven cooking to the correct internal temperature. The additional oil it absorbs in this stage allows the product to crisp up in the oven before consumption.
Ingredients used in coating systems can include a range of flours, starches, salt, emulsifiers, sugars, colour, milk proteins, stabilisers, antioxidants, bulking agents, flavours, vegetables, firming agents, spices, herbs, seeds, acidity regulators, thickeners, yeast, wheat gluten and oil (from the flash frying step which is common in products to be heated in the oven).
The section of our Food Standards Code that covers seafood is Standard 2.2.3. For more information please see the link below –
Surimi – Surimi is a Japanese ground fish product that is used in different shapes to mimic the texture of seafood. You might recognise it as a Crab Stick, Seafood stick or seafood extender. Surimi is manufactured by washing white fleshed fish from a variety of species until the aroma of the fish is removed. It’s then processed into a paste before mixing with other ingredients such as egg whites, water, sugar, phosphates, firming agents, salts, starches, thickeners, colours and flavours. The resulting paste is extruded into different shapes (balls, sticks etc). It may also have a bright red stripe down the side or on the exterior of the product. As most of the flavour is washed out during manufacturing, flavours are added back into the paste and these can include fish or crab profiles.
Meat Ingredients –
The ingredients used in manufacture processed meat, poultry and seafood products are varied. The most important aspect when dealing with meat, poultry and seafood products is food safety. Ensuring a product is safe to be consumed over the shelf life of the product is critical as in Australia we tend to manufacture meat and seafood products in a central location, then distribute them across our country either frozen or chilled. Ingredients are used to help preserve meat products and keep the growth of pathogenic organisms, including bacteria, moulds and yeasts at safe levels. If pathogenic organisms, the toxins they produce, or viruses are consumed in food and beverage products they can cause virus’s and food borne illness in the consumer. Preservatives are also used to prevent the growth of other bacteria’s, yeast and moulds that are not pathogenic, will not make you sick but may contribute to the deterioration of the product before the end of its shelf life. Preservatives are commonly used in chilled or fermented products such as salami’s. They are not usually used in frozen products as they are kept frozen up to the point of re-heating. For more information please see the Wikipedia link to Pathogenic bacteria at – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pathogenic_bacteria
The other aspect of food safety when it comes to meat and seafood products is the way that food and beverage products are handled during distribution and transport. If products are frozen or chilled the transport used to distribute the product must keep the food or beverage below certain temperatures and avoid fluctuations which may encourage the growth of pathogenic bacteria. Transport conditions are monitored closely with the temperatures being recorded during travel to ensure food safety standards are maintained. FSANZ oversees the temperature control requirements for potentially hazardous foods under Standard 3.2.2. For more information please see http://www.foodstandards.gov.au/consumer/safety/faqsafety/pages/foodsafetyfactsheets/foodsafetystandardst857.aspx
Some of the functional ingredients noted in the meat and seafood sections above that I’d like to discuss are listed below. For more information on these ingredients please click here to go to the Food Additives page. –
Water – Water is used to help disperse water soluble ingredients such as salt, sugar, etc, to add yield and to provide succulence to cooked product. It is also added to produce the correct texture and quality in the finished product. Sausages for example contain a smaller amount of water than hams. Functional ingredients such as proteins, binders and carrageenan’s (407, 407a) are added to help hold onto this water and prevent it from escaping as purge or an amount of free liquid in the bottom of a pack of sliced or shaved ham for example.
Proteins – Protein based ingredients perform a number of functions in meat products including increasing the nutritional protein level, binding fat and moisture, increasing the yield and adding to the texture of the cooked product. Protein based ingredients can be in powder form or in pieces and can be sourced from animal or vegetable sources. These include
- Animal proteins from pork, beef, chicken, or other animal proteins
- Whey protein, milk caseinate and milk powders
- Egg protein powders – not commonly used in meat products.
- Soy Protein isolates which contain around 90% protein
- Soy Proteins concentrates which contain around 70% protein
- Wheat Gluten contains around 75-80% protein
- TVP or Textured vegetable protein is most commonly sourced from soy. It is used to mimic the texture of meat and can be purchased in a range of particle sizes, colours and flavours. For more information on TVP please see the following link. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Textured_vegetable_protein
Flours – Flours are used to absorb water and as a filler and bulking agent, similar to using breadcrumbs in meatballs and rissoles at home. Wheat flour is commonly used but a range of flours can be used depending if the product being made is gluten free or not.
Starches – Starches are used for a variety of reasons in meat products. They work as a filler and to bind and hold onto moisture and fat. Common starches can include potato, rice, tapioca, wheat and corn.
Salt – Salt is added to meats not just for flavour but to begin the extraction of meat proteins when manufacturing minced or emulsified products such as sausages or salami. It’s also added to ham and smallgoods to control water activity in the product which helps to extend shelf life.
Flavouring Ingredients –
- Sugars (sucrose, dextrose) – Mainly added for flavour and to balance the salt.
- Herbs – A range of herbs are added to meat, small good and poultry products for flavour and in some cases Rosemary Oleoresin is added as a natural antioxidant.
- Spices – Can include pepper, nutmeg, cinnamon, chilli, paprika and other traditional spices necessary to create traditional flavour profiles in smallgoods.
- Hydrolysed vegetable protein or HVP – HVP’s are created by hydrolysing vegetable proteins from a range of sources including oil seeds, cereals and legumes. They provide a meaty or brothy flavour profile and are commonly added into seasoning blends for flavour in savoury applications.
- Smoke – Smoked can be added as a liquid to the injection brine or as a dip for the outside of a ham. Real smoke can also be added during the smoking stage of cooking by smoking actual wood chip or logs.
Preservatives – The use of preservatives in meat and seafood products is highly regulated. Not all additives can be added to all meat products. Only certain types of preservatives can be used in specific types of products and their maximum usage levels are controlled. Preservatives play a key role in providing meat and smallgoods products that are safe to consume and are free from pathogenic bacteria.
Categories of preservative ingredients commonly used in meat and seafood products include –
- Nitrites (Potassium Nitrite 249, Sodium Nitrate 250) Nitrites develop the cured or pink colour in processed ham, bacon and smallgoods, and protect against bacterial growth. They are used to extend the shelf life and to provide flavour to these products.
- Nitrates (Sodium Nitrate 251 or Potassium Nitrate 252) – These ingredients can only be used in dried fermented sausages and dried cured hams. Nitrates are slowly converted to Nitrites over time and are used in products that have long curing times such as Prosciutto.
- Sorbates (200, 201, 202, 203) – Helps to prevent the growth of yeasts and moulds.
- Sulphites (220, 221, 222, 223, 228) – Sulphites are used to prevent microbial growth in cured smallgoods and to protect the bloom or the colour of cured meats.
The Standard that permits the use of preservatives is Standard 1.3.1 of the Food Standards Code. A list of the technological purposes performed by substances used as food additives is detailed in Schedule 14 which can be found the Food Standards Australia New Zealand website http://www.foodstandards.gov.au/code/Pages/default.aspx
Antioxidants (300, Rosemary extract) – Ascorbic Acid (300) is used to accelerate the curing reaction and for flavour and shelf life. Rosemary is natural source of Antioxidant added to products to help prevent oxidation of the fats. For more information please see the following link – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antioxidant
Acidity Regulators (326, 262) – Used to provide flavour and control the pH of meat and smallgoods, helping to create an environment that is undesirable for bacterial growth.
Phosphates (450, 451, 452) – Phosphates are added to emulsions, minced meat and smallgood products. They are used in combination with salt to extract the meat proteins at the beginning of mixing. These proteins form a glue type structure that keeps the meat together, binding the water and fat preventing it from falling apart after cooking.
Thickener (407) – Carrageenan’s are used to increase the yield in hams and smallgoods by holding onto the added water. They prevent purge in the packs of sliced or shaved meats holding onto the water and keeping the product firm and dry for slicing or shaving. For more information on Carrageenan, please see the Food Additives page.
Ingredients from Vegetables – A range of vegetable products are used in meat and vegetable products. These include –
- Dehydrated vegetables – Whole or in pieces such as peas, carrots, red capsicum, onion etc. Can be added in the coating, or into the meat itself.
- Powdered Vegetables – Includes garlic, onion and other vegetable powders. For more information please see the Fruit and Vegetable page.
- Vegetable fibre – Used as a filler to hold and bind moisture, increase yield and provide succulence to the cooked product. For more information please see the Fruit and Vegetable page.
- Yeast extract – Processed from yeast cells, yeast extracts are produced to provide different flavour profiles, or additional nutrients to products. Yeast extracts form the base for your everyday spreads such as Vegemite, Promite and Aussie Mite. The flavour profiles that can be obtained from yeast extracts range from chicken, beef, vegetable, roasted meat and general savoury flavours. For more information please see the following link – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yeast_extract
Sausage Casing – Sausages are packed into 3 different types of casings, natural gut, collagen and alginate casings. Natural casings are usually sourced from pig gut but can also come from sheep. Collagen casings are the other option commonly used for mass produced sausages such as BBQ sausages. Collagen casings are manufactured from beef collagen. The hides go through many processing steps to make a collagen paste which is then extruded to different widths and colours for different applications. Examples of this type of casing is the red casing commonly used for hot dogs. Collagen casings are cheaper, provide a consistent product and are easier to use than natural casings in large scale production situations. The other type of casing is fairly new onto the Australian market and consists of a vegetarian casing produced from Alginate, derived from seaweed. The alginate is made into a paste and extruded with the sausage meat. The alginate is then set forming a skin around the sausage.
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