Processors Get to the Meat of the Matter with Protein

American custom still puts animal protein at the center of the dinner plate. But some processors worry how they'll keep it there in the future.

By Anibal Concha-Meyer, Contributing Editor

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Cargill Inc. (www.cargillfoods.com), Minneapolis, makes its Prolia brand defatted soy flour as a way to similarly bind and extend ground meat products. It's a high-protein flour, at 54 percent total protein, and available in multiple grain shapes and sizes.

In applications, Prolia can replicate the look and fibrous structure of cooked meat, while keeping a high percentage of protein in the final product. This allows it to maintain flavor profiles of healthier versions of processed meat products, replacing "substantial portions" of raw meat, according to the company. It helps increase yield, add juiciness and, since it's a defatted, it allows processors to lower the total fat content of the finished product.

In chicken products, where flavor is easily impacted by even slight off notes, company taste tests showed that chicken patties manufactured with Prolia defatted soy flour replacing a full 10 percent of the chicken were "indistinguishable from all-chicken patties – and half the participants preferred them." Thus costs are decreased via both initial ingredient expenditure as well as reduction in loss of water and fat during the cooking process.

Meatiness enhanced

International Dehydrated Foods Inc. (www.idf.com), Springfield, Mo., provides different alternatives for meat and poultry ingredients, such as dehydrated, frozen and shelf-stable concentrated chicken broth that comes in at 32 percent solids. The company also provides meat-based flavors that contribute rich, fresh, savory and roasted flavors and aromas. Such products include its spray-dried broth powders, derived from the broth of cooked chicken, turkey or beef, and meat and fat powders. These spray-dried and dry-blended products give natural meat or savory taste to a wide range of final products, while also lowering cost.

A lot of flavor, especially savory and umami resides in fat. IDF also has a shelf-stable chicken fat that is light yellow and available with natural antioxidants, typically rosemary-derived varieties. The company uses no artificial ingredients or chemical antioxidants and only minimal processing. Applications include wet and dry soup and broth formulations, soup bases, sauces, gravies, stuffing, marinades and flavorants, as well as seasoning for rice, pasta and ramen-type noodle cups. Or, they can be applied to pot pies and similar finished products or in breading, batter, coating, stuffing and marinade formulations.

Salt has been the primary meat flavor enhancer ever since cavemen chased down their kill in a dried up sea bed and noted what a finer flavor the prey had. However, and in spite of the growing recognition that dietary sodium only impacts a small percentage of the population, the demand for low-sodium products is still high enough that processors are looking for enhancers and reducers for their new lines.

Natural, non-sodium flavor enhancers designed specifically for meat applications and heightened umami and kokomi characteristics are being derived from plant extracts. LycoRed Inc. (www.lycored.com), Beersheva, Israel, developed its Sante brand from tomatoes to act as a highly effective flavorant/salt reducer. It's composed mostly of glutamic acid, amino acids and maltodextrins and is an off-white soluble powder. It also is available in liquid form in several concentrations.

Soy has amazing versatility for taking on almost any texture as an excellent analog of meat, poultry or fish. In addition to acting as a high-protein extender, soy also is a flavor enhancer with a centuries-old track record at boosting umami qualities. Amino acids -- in the ideal amounts and ratios -- are critical to the umami sensation that makes foods more savory and satisfying, according to Magda Dziembowski, foodservice coordinator, and Taku Otsuka, senior manager of technical support at Kikkoman USA Inc. (www.kikkomanusa.com),Oakbrook Terrace, Ill.

"As much as sugar molecules interact with taste receptors to generate sweetness, glutamate salts of glutamic acid trip the taste receptors that generate umami," explains Otsuka.

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