Meat-on-Meat Bacon and Ham: Injection for Profit and Taste
Eben van Tonder
After many years in the bacon industry, and working on sausage technology, I was able to conceptualise a complete bacon line, almost fully automated, exploiting a selection of different equipment and sets of technoligy, and in cooperation with a few key players in the industry, to design a bacon line which will deliver volume, at a cost never achieved before.
The new technology will, for example, make vastly reduced nitrite and possibly nitrite free bacon a reality which is not based on smoking-mirrors, as is currently widespread in offerings to consumers. Plant based brines are used where nitrites are produced by the plants in large concentrations due to how the plants are cultivated and by exploiting loopholes in legislagion, producers are not declaring the nitrites since they did not add chemical nitrites. They only declare the plant juices but do not have to say that by adding these, the also added extraordinary additional quantities of nitrites.
New technology we are working with makes it possible to produce bacon with either very low nitrite levels or, possibly even, removing it completely. (Removal of Nitrite from Meat Curing Systems)
The fact that the system we are conceptualising is continus with minimal handling becomes a powerful hurdle against clostridium and botulinum poisoning which is the reason why nitrites is allowed in meat.
The main contribution I want to focus on here is, however, the possibility for meat-on-meat injection with a scope of application that has not been possible before. Further, I want to put it in the context of the best bacon system on earth since it is only one additional building block to a complete system.
Much of the thinking was inspired by sausage technology.
From Sausage Technology – Back to Bacon
I have been working most of 2020 on fine meat emulsions (Nose-to-Tail and Root-to-Tip: Re-Thinking Emulsions). Most of my work was on re-working the formulation. I started by grouping the different chemical reactions together along with ingredients which links to the reactions. From this I produce a number of emulsions (emulsions is an old and incorrect industry term – meat paste is more accurate). The different pastes are created seperate using the new super emulsification system. The different pastes are then combined through a mixing step, where spices and showpieces are also added. It was during this phase of trails, creating the different meat pasts, when I bacame aware of the possibility to apply the technology to reduced nitrite or even nitrite free curing systems.
After blending, we move to filling through a filler and a hanging line into a continuous smoking system. No trollys required. The sausages goes in on the one end, are dried, smoked and schillied in one continuas system and comes out on the other end at 4 deg C and packed immediately. It easily adds another hour production time, reduce staff cost and handling and improves product quality, consistency and safety! On the back end, we are looking at continuous and automated packing solution and a man who designed and implemented one of the largest of these lines in the world will be assisting me.
The Relevance to Bacon
I started my career in meat processing as a bacon man and as I was working today, I thought about BACON! The applications of what I learned this year are enormous.
- Meat-on-Meat Injection, through the use of the super emulsifier, becomes the most obvious application in brine injection. Inject lower cost trim with spices added into whole meat muscles. Around the world, super quality meats are produced using the general concept of injecting meat into meat. It has, however, never been this easy or commercially viable! The list of possible raw materials used for such injection is also tremendously expanded.
- In formulating the brine, we are able to use components such as tendon and rinds which for the first time is now injectable! Other systems exist, but not one as simple, clean and wide in application as this one.
Below I introduce you to the equipment which will produce the brine. This innovation may very well be the biggest breakthrough in brine technology over the past 100 years since the direct addition of nitrites to curing brines. (Best Bacon and Rib System on Earth)
We can now continue to place the new technology in the context of the broader bacon system.
- The injected bacon logs are rested and loaded into bacon grids which we designed (Best Bacon and Rib System on Earth). We opted for individual baskets which are filled and pressed individually after which the entire log with the basket can be loaded into the smoking/ cooking/ freezing chamber. It will be easy to see how it works if you study the baskets and the pressing system shown in Best Bacon and Rib System on Earth. The fact that the baskets are ONLY removed at the end of the line, after freezing, speeds the smoking and freezing process up due to the effect of the stainless steel and its thermal properties.
- The same approach to the continues drying, smoking, cooling of the sausages has been adapted with a freezing step at the back. It is envisaged that bacon logs will be de-gritted at slicing temperatures or slightly above if manual Treif-type slicers are used. An automated de-grid system is being designed that must allow the grids to slide into the system which removes the lid from the basket, tips the basket over for the bacon log to fall out from where it moves directly to the slicer or, alternatively, to a boxing station where they are boxed and palletised before storage in a freezer for later slicing.
- The baskets are then either sent to the manual cleaning station or into an automated high pressure spray cleaning system.
- Slicing/ packing solutions have been developed over the years which makes automated slicing and packing possible with minimal human handling. Several very good system is available commercially.
The one major issue I don’t have clarity on is Pasteurisation. High-Pressure Pasteurisation, for all its claims, does not seem to add up to a viable investment compared to heating systems (PPP) which can be constructed in-house or at much lower cost by contractors. This is the consensus opinion of production managers from around the world whom I consulted on the matter. I have had no time to look in more detail into the matter myself. The fact is that some form of eliminating contamination during packing should be part of the total system. The effectiveness vs total cost of ownership of the different systems must be thoroughly understood. Systems working with light and ultrasound should also be considered and combination systems. I would love to receive comments and input on this matter especially from production managers. In South Africa, there seems to be a wholesale rush to HPP, but I am not convinced. It may be, but I would love to see the data for myself and get more input from production managers and business owners with first hand experience.
I feature new technology in terms of brine preparation, but set out new thinking about drying, smoking, chilling and freezing through one of the most advanced Smokehouse producers in Europe. We developed a bacon grid system which fully integrates into this drying, smoking, chilling and freezing system and skilled designers are completing the work by focussing on an automated offloading and de-gritting system from where the bacon will either be sliced or stored.
The possibility exist to use the new brine preparation technology featured here, to create vastly reduces nitrite or even, possibly, nitrite free curing systems.
All-in-all, claiming that this is the most advanced system on earth is not an exaggeration!
I welcome any input, comments or suggestions!