In the highly competitive and price-sensitive world of fresh ground meat, shelf life can be crucial for profits. One or two extra days without unsightly browning can be the difference between a sale and a return to the manufacturer. Raw meat quality, clean processing and controlled atmosphere packaging remain keys to maintaining a good fresh appearance in retail tray-displayed ground meats. The question arises about how to provide a safe and acceptable hurdle to improve shelf life and yet meet the clean label requirements of today’s consumer?
Clean Label Alternative Ingredients
The possible answer may lie in clean label ingredients from natural sources like Rosemary, Acerola (Cherry), and Green Tea with antioxidant color retention effect being added to fresh ground meats during processing. Rosemary extracts are widely accepted commercially to improve shelf life in ground poultry. Rosemary naturally contains rosmarinic and carnosic acids which are responsible for the longer shelf life antioxidant effect without the characteristic rosemary flavor. The organic acids (mostly ascorbic acid) present in Acerola Cherry juice powder provides oxygen-scavenging properties that protect meat pigments from the color change caused by oxidation. Green tea extracts have been commercially developed over that past 10 years based on water extractable polyphenols in fresh green tea leaves. Similar to green tea extracts, many other spice and fruits are sources of organic acids and naturally-occurring compounds like polyphenols with known protective effects useful in maintaining freshness. Commercially, suppliers are providing combined blends of these natural antioxidants and measuring their potency. These blends have been tested to be efficacious in retaining the bright red meat color in beef at usage levels as low as 0.2% to 0.5%
In considering these alternative clean-labelled ingredients cost, flavor and efficacy and label recommendations must be considered. A 2015 Nielsen-Perishable Group study concluded that “Consumers will to pay more for cleaner labels-up to 70 cents (per pound) for fresh ground beef.” Naturally-sourced clean-labelled shelf life improving ingredients will definitely play an exciting role in this very current development.
For more information about this opportunity, contact your SPI Group sales manager and get more literature, shelf life study results and samples.
When food formulators, marketers, and processors are challenged with requests for clean-label statements one of the most valuable ingredients in terms of functionality and cost-effectiveness may be designated for removal: Sodium Phosphate.
Permitted at a usage level of no more than 0.5% in the final cooked processed meat, sodium phosphates are injected into whole muscle or added to ground or emulsified meats allowing moisture to be retained in the muscle fibers during cooking; resulting in a moister, better quality meat with higher cook yields. So why do meats lose moisture and get tougher and is there a cleaner label alternative to phosphates?
As fresh meat ages, pH changes (lactic acid buildup) and higher calcium levels cause the muscle tissue to lose moisture and to structurally collapse making the meat tougher and dryer. The addition of sodium phosphates acts to reverse the process by increasing the pH and chelating the calcium and thereby allowing the muscle tissue to open up and retain moisture.
Clean Label Phosphate Replacers
Historically, clean label phosphate replacement has been based primary on water binding capacity. Native starches like rice starch are very bland, and non-allergenic . The uniqueness of rice starch are that the rice granule size is very small (5 to 10 microns) and activate at lower cook temperatures. Rice starches are very effective in poultry products due to their light color and clean flavor. Citrus and vegetable-based fiber sources are able to hold alot of water without heating due to the minute hollow-tube structure of alpha cellulose. Traditionally proteins from meat (dry collegen),dairy, and plant sources are excellent complements or replacements to phosphates in improving meat yields. Isolated soy proteins and soy protein concentrates are the predominant products used in many processed meats due to their high solubility,clean flavor and maintainence of meat texture at economical extension levels. In addition, combinations of the above ingredients are used in blends or systems along with commonly accepted gums and buffering agents. All in all, selecting the proper product requires careful review of what is considered “clean” label by the formulator,marketer and ultimately the consumer.
Alternatively, unique ingredient combinations are now being used commercially to replace phosphates in meats that include fruit,vegetable or yeast extracts allowing the labelling recommendation as “natural flavorings” or as “yeast extract” as defined by the FDA and the Natural Food Industry. Recent studies have shown higher cook yields similar to STPP, as these well-investigated ingredients systems mimics phosphate by reducing water activity by bonding protein to water and increasing water binding capacity naturally. The result: A more natural meat texture.
If you are interested in learning more about the benefits of each of these clean label alternatives, contact your SPI Group representative for more information and samples.