African Processed Meats: West African Roots

African Processed Meats: West African Roots
9 April 2023
Eben van Tonder


Food is one of the most intimate cultural expressions, on par with religion. Methods of preparation and spices are pillars of the study of food and one of the oldest foods we consumed is meat. Europeans and Americans refer to one class of meat sausages as emulsion sausages. Examples include frankfurter-style sausages and mortadella luncheon meats. In South Africa russians, viennas and polony fall into this category. The origins of emulsion-style sausages are definitely not restricted to Europe. I traced the origins of this style of meats to antiquity when mortar and pestle grinding was used to create a meat paste and here in West Africa I encounter another example.

The two most important spices are salt and pepper. Salt fascinates me and I have a special section in the EarthwormExpress dedicated to its role in history, The Salt Bridge, celebrating its role in connecting societies and facilitating the transfer of culinary innovation since antiquity. In 2018 I did an article, Salt and the Ancient People of Southern Africa elucidating some of the important elements of the key role salt played in the lives of the ancient people of Southern Africa, particularly in relation to producing dried meat.

It is the link between dried meat, spices and grinding or pulverising meat that became a powerful telescope back into history when I had a fascinating meeting with three businessmen in Lagos, Hassan and his brother Hussaini Guruna and Saleh Buba, a business partner, friend and economist by training.

The Southern African Context

I first set the context from a Southern African perspective. Here, a long tradition exists of drying meat which started in antiquity past by the indigenous inhabitants predating the creation of Biltong by the Boer farmers (Saltpeter, Horse Sweat, and Biltong: The origins of our national food).

Meat was dried by hanging it in trees. Salt was indirectly used by rolling the strips of meat in ash before hanging it. The ash had the function of keeping the flies away but also added to the taste. William Ramwell sent me a comment earlier this year to my article on biltong I mentioned above, “I was working in the bush in Namibia in 1978 doing geological exploration. We were late and had to camp by the roadside. I had a team of 17 Ovambo tribesmen who proceeded to make a fire and slice up their meat into long, ragged strips which they then put on the wood fire. The ash-coated meat was absolutely delicious.” In a 2019 interview, I did with a guide at Echo Caves in the Mpumalanga region in South Africa whose memory through his father and grandfather goes back at least 170 years, told me that if the meat had a slight “off-taint”, they would roll it in the ash again before consuming it which would mask the unpleasant taste. I never forgot the statement which came back to me and was elucidated by William’s contribution that the ash indeed served a “spicing” role and positively contributed to the organoleptic characteristics of the product.

The dried meat was pulverised and used in soup dishes. The tradition is ancient and I found reports of ancient mortars and pestles, discovered in Southwest Asia dating back to approximately 35000 BC where it was applied to amongst other, meat. I examine this in The Origins of Polony.

The pulverised meat was often used with ground nuts. Elanor Muller, Marketing Manager at Transfrontier Parks and a student of culinary history provided me with the following detailed information regarding the practice of drying meat and then rehydrating it in a stew and its combination with ground nuts in Southern Africa. “The Zimbabwean Ndebele people have a traditional dish which they call Ewomileyo. Modern-day people add peanut butter to the dish. This is no doubt done in accordance with an old practice of adding nuts to the meat dish. It is also called Umhwabha or the Zulu name for it is Umqayiba. In Venda, it is done in two ways. Dried meat is placed on a braai or they grill it and stump it. It is then cooked, or dried meat is recooked and mixed with peanuts. All vegetables and meat, mixed with peanuts are called Dovhi.”

West Africa – Incubator of African Innovation and Technology

This week Hassan and his brother Hussaini Guruna and Saleh Buba visit us at our offices in Lagos. The first lesson they had for me related to descriptions of cattle. It is important for me to be able to make a clear distinction between cattle that are fat and healthy – ready for slaughter and gaunt, sick animals. Two Hausa words are used.

Gamba – the word used to describe gaunt cattle; and

Koshi – the word used to describe fat cattle (can also be referred to as Bujimi).

They then told me about the Yolo cattle market in Mubi. Cattle are driven in huge herds from Chad to the Northern Nigerian City of Mubi where cattle traders like the Guruna family, load them in trucks and transport them to Lagos where they are fattened and sold.

The cattle market in Mubi, photo from Northeast Reporters

The discussion quickly turned to dried meat. In the Hausa tradition salt and spices are used to make the dried meat, but never sugar. The local variety known as biltong in South Africa and Jerky in America is called Kilishi. A bit of heat is sometimes employed to speed up the drying process.

Kilishi is, however not the only product made from dehydrated meat. One such progression of the basic concept is Dambu Nama.

Dambu Nama

To make this, all fat and connective tissue is removed from the meat after which it is rinsed and cooked with bell peppers, stock, onions and salt to taste. The meat is cooked till it is soft. All the water is cooked off and if need be, add more water and cook till dry. Traditionally, a mortar and pestle were used to grind the meat down but these days chefs prefer using two forks to shred the meat. The role of mortar and pestle is the key link for me. The tradition is ancient!

Suya spice, pepper, ginger powder and stock are added. Mix and taste to ensure the spices are to satisfaction. Now, fry on medium heat in a bit of oil, pressing down on the meat with your spachelor while stirring to ensure the meat remains fluffy. When the colour of the meat change to deep brown, it’s done and time to cool it down.

For the complete recipe of Dambu Nama, see Chef Lola’s Kitchen. I used her video in my description of the process.

One of the other traditional ways that it is made is by adding groundnut cake. This piqued my interest as it connected to the Southern African inclusion of groundnuts into pulverised dried meat.

Groundnut cake is made as the byproduct of extracting oil from it, and yes, the process is also ancient and is still practised in households and small industries by Nigerian Northerners.

My mind goes back to the weeks and days I spend hiking the old indigenous ruins across the Johannesburg highveld area. I chronicled these experiences in The Stories of Salt. All we have left today are the ruins. Western colonisation destroyed the rich oral tradition of the indigenous tribes. It was always interesting to me that when I was amongst the ruins a calm came upon my mind and I knew that the truth about the rich history of these people would one day be told again. The height of their technology was in ways that Europeans did not perceive as valuable. For most of the inhabitants of the region (sadly, not all) technology was chiefly directed at communal living and not building vast empires. One of my projects is to rediscover this technology and particularly as it relates to meat and other foods.

It was with the greatest excitement that I learned the full details of the processing of dried meat and the way that groundnuts were added to meats. The ancestral spirit-guardians of the stone ruins of Southern Africa guided me to Nigeria and set an appointment with Hassan Guruna, Hussaini Guruna and Saleh Buba who would finally tell me what happened in the ancient mega-cities of Southern Africa, not by telling me what happened down South, but what is done here in West Africa where most of the ancestors of the oldest inhabitants of Southern Africa hail from.

Oil Extraction from Groundnuts

The groundnuts are first roasted. In the roasting process, the nuts are stirred repeatedly to prevent burning. After roasting it is removed from the fire and cooled down. The red coating is now removed either by hand or by lightly stirring it in a mortar and pestle. The red coating is removed by blowing it away. The remaining groundnuts, now without the coating is grind into a paste in the mortar and pestle.

The container for roasting is now returned to the fire and the paste is transferred to it. You can add water. Stir the paste. Add more water and keep stirring to avoid burning the paste. Stir it till the oil starts coming out. Bring it down from the fire and allow it to cool. The oil separates out. Wrap the paste in a cloth sieve and press the oil out with a heavy stone by placing the stone on top of the paste.

After collecting the oil, let it stand in a container to settle down and clear oil is now separated from solid bits that made their way through the sieve. What remains is the oil, used for frying and the groundnut cake which can be used in many different ways, for several dishes. One of the ways is in combination with shredded and pulverised meat that was either dried in the sun or dried over a slow fire or both.

The ancient method of extracting the oil is beautifully done by Sunshine Resources and I used their video and description above. Credit goes to them and their excellent video is posted below.

Saleh gave me another way that oil extraction can be done without the use of direct heat. Apply a small amount of boiled salt water to the paste and keep turning it without applying direct heat. A pure oil will start coming out. The process is, however, described as “stressful.” The role of salt is interesting and will require further investigation.


I will return from West Africa, armed with a truckload of specific sets of technology to investigate and find evidence that they were practised. West Africa has always been one of the areas in the world with the greatest technological advances. The existence of hundreds of languages and different writing styles, completely unique in their structure is a testament to this. It opens an avenue to discover technology that disappeared and was never recorded, filling in cultural and heritage gaps that exist in the rich indigenous culture of the South.

It contributed to my own quest to discover the specifics of the enormous meat culture of Africa. I am here to produce sausages and hams and various meat delicacies, but I am not interested in the European, English and American style of food only. My compatriots and I are fascinated to bring to the mass market, African delicacies and processed meats.

Finally, as a meat scientist, it solidifies my view that meat recipes with meat extenders (soy, starch, flour, etc.) are by no way inferior to pure meat recipes and that it is not somehow a modern invention. The tradition is ancient and the delicacies delicious!

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Creating the Optimal African Frankfurter Style Sausage: Hungarians and Russians

Creating the Optimal Frankfurter Style Sausage in Africa: Hungarians and Russians
by Eben van Tonder 
27 November 2021

Over the years I have written about the history of the development of Russian sausages in South Africa (Origins of the South African Sausage, Called a Russian). I’ve created poems about it! 🙂 (Ode to the Russian Sausage – a Technical Evaluation) It is a South African frankfurter style sausages. In Australia, it is called a Kransky and in Zambia and parts of the DRC, it is called a Hungarian. A Hungarian is made without showpieces which means that the exact same product in South Africa is called a smokey or a penny polony. The basic formulations are, however, the same. It is a fine emulsion sausage.

I have looked at every aspect of Russian/ Hungarian making except cooking/ smoking and packing it. This week attention shifted to these final aspects. Daniel Erdei from the smokehouse producer Kerres visited me in South Africa. Their new hybrid smoke system, combining vertical and horizontal airflow systems make them, in my opinion, the best option in the world. They claim a reduction of 30% in cooking/ smoking loss.

Apart from smoking/ cooking, I looked at packaging with shelf life in mind. Many of the large producers in South Africa opted for High-Pressure Pastorisation over the last few years following the Listeriosis epidemy. It is an extremely expensive solution, and I was keen to see what else is on the market.

In South Africa there are several producers who manufacture between 60 and 100 tons of these sausages per day and the economic benefit of this consideration can hardly be overrated. Besides these, current projects underway in other African countries will soon see the same production levels from other African regions. This, coupled with the devastating effects of Covid on international food prices makes the work urgent.

The danger and impact of Covid were highlighted to us while we were in Simons Town, at the famous Brass Bell-Inn and Daniel, a German citizen, started getting calls from family and from the management at Kerres as they were scrambling to get him on the first available flight out of South Africa after the discovery of a new Omicron variant (Variant B.1.1.529) and as countries from around the world were announcing the immediate cancellation of flights from and into South Africa.

After the logistics were arranged and we were satisfied that the best measures were taken to ensure his speedy return to Germany, we continued with our adventure while designing the optimal Russian/ Hungarian line and processing approach.

The following discussion points were all highlighted and interrogated yesterday.

Novel Processing Techniques

– DCD Technology from Green Cell

Work done with DCD Technology (The Power of Microparticles: Disruptor (DCD) Technology) shows the feasibility to use nutritious parts of an animal carcass previously not included in raw material for such sausages. DCD has proven to be extremely important even though it was shown to be less effective in certain specific areas of application (Muscle Structure (Biology)). For large throughput factories it, however, is an ideal solution to increase the overall digestibility of certain raw materials since digestibility is closely related to comminution (Notes on Comminution and Digestibility). It also offers a way to apply pressure for micro control in a way that was previously only possible with HPP or similar systems (for example pulse technology). Two years of intensive work showed that DCD technology has a definite place in meat processing. A proper understanding of its strengths and weaknesses, along with alternative processing techniques that we developed for certain areas of application allows us to create our own MDM/ MSM. MDM or MSM is widely used in Africa as the basis for these sausages (MDM – Not all are created equal!). The MDM-replacer we created has been shown to be more nutritious compared to MDM, imported from, for example, South America and has greater functionality than using MDM alone.

– Binding of water

Water act as the plasticizer in the system. The meat’s texture in these sausages “is due to its property of heat-induced long-chain gelling or setting” and the “cooked meat is classifiable as a water-plasticized, filled-cell mixed-composite thermosetting plastic biopolymer. The word “polymer” denotes long-chain macromolecules which are crosslinked, such as proteins or starches. The word “plasticizer” indicates that water is the filling solvent that hydrates the polymer and supports its “plastic” behaviour.” (Review of comminuted and cooked meat product properties from a sol, gel and polymer viewpoint)

The optimal binding of water has been shown to be a balance between the creation of various base emulsions (for example fat and skin emulsions) and the inherent requirement for water as the plasticizer. In other words, there is a certain amount of water required to form the gel which is the basis of the product – all other water is better pre-bound. Adding “fillers” with high water-holding capacity such as soy isolate or TVP serves an important function of making the sausage less “rubbery”. LaBudde (1992) states it as follows. “Fillers with high water-holding capacity will effectively de-plasticize the system, resulting in lower strains to failure and higher stresses.” (Review of comminuted and cooked meat product properties from a sol, gel and polymer viewpoint). Like in whole muscle chemistry, we are looking at the role of bound, immobilized, and free water in the sausage matrix (see the section under “water” in Muscle Structure (Biology)

– Losing Some of the Water

Managing the process of water loss is of the utmost importance. Water act as the plasticizer in the system. In a frankfurter style sausage, “the proteins are gelled not only through the heat of cooking, but also through the mechanisms of water loss (shrinkage), pH (acid rinse) and smoke application.”

That water loss must take place and is important. “The effect of moisture loss through shrinkage is twofold: a drop in the plasticizer percentage and an increase in the percentage of other materials, including protein. Consequently, the strength of a “shrunk” product will be larger than that of the “unshrunk” product by at least the percentage shrink [ 1/(1-s) ], and the strain to failure lower by approximately the shrink [ 1-s ].” (Review of comminuted and cooked meat product properties from a sol, gel and polymer viewpoint)

Water loss is important but too much water loss is uneconomical. In the right drying, smoking and cooking chamber, the method of applying heat to the sausages, the rate of temperature application, humidity and wind speed (velocity) are key factors to control. From a business perspective, the role of an excellent personal banker is key to success. In terms of meat processing, the right smokehouse partner is as important as a personal banker to the overall business. They must be entrusted with the management of water or fat loss during the final cooking step. They are also the custodians of the final look of the product before packaging. Texture and gel formation is within their scope of responsibility. I cannot over emphasis the importance of choosing the right smokehouse and the right smokehouse supplier.

In producing these sausages, a customary South African formulation will result in between 15% and 18% moisture loss during the cooking cycle to 71o C. Kerres smokehouses technology promises a 30% reduction in this loss to between 10 and 13%. Trails are underway in Germany, using South African recipes, to confirm these. The overall loss we are targeting by using the correct product ingredients, along with the Kerres smokehouse technology I set at between 8% and 10%. These targets are ambitious, and results will be made available in updates of this article.

Old School Smoking/ Drying -> Latest Technology

Kerres smokehouses technology promises a 30% reduction in smoking/ cooking loss

Blending and Filling

The grinder -> mixer -> emulsifier -> filler configuration is retained with key adjustments in the state of the ingredients added at the various stages. The entire discussion of the mix of traditional processing technology using micro cutters and grinders and incorporating DCD’ed raw materials discussed above feature prominently under this heading. For Africa, I advocate the incorporation of Ethyl Lauroyl Arginate (LAE) in the product as one of the micro hurdles.

Drying/ Smoking

There is a trend in the rest of Africa (excluding South Africa) not to dry the sausages before sale and to use liquid smoke in the product composition instead of natural smoke. This is an unacceptable compromise because it seriously compromises the product quality, and our goal is to deliver more nutritious food to Africa of a quality equal to or higher than what is found in European and North American supermarkets in Frankfurter sausages.

I have found the Kerres team to be the best to outsource the final look, feel and texture of the product to. I base this statement on the versatility of their equipment. It is a familiar frustration to all production managers that they buy equipment and lock themselves into a certain processing system which invariably comes to haunt them later when they want to change the production system. In smokehouse technology, it is clearly seen in the choice between a system with vertical or horizontal airflow.

As a case in point, consider the change from natural or artificial casings and the emergence of alginate casing technology. The use of alginate casing technology has become widely available, in South Africa, through the spice supplier Freddy Hirsch, but when drying, the sausages can’t hang and are packed on trays which favours a horizontal airflow and not the vertical airflow systems used when smoking sausages that hang on smoke sticks and are linked together. So, ineffective smokehouses now become an obstacle when the production manager wants to change how the sausages are produced.

Even more, what do you do if you only want to change part of the processing system to alginate casings and still offer the consumers the natural or collagen casings they are used to?

The same applies to bacon processing technology. The traditional way is to hang the bacon in the smoke chamber. However, the latest method of bacon processing using grids to “shape” the bacon, favours again a horizontal airflow system as opposed to the vertical flow systems. The latter is favoured by the traditional way of hanging the bacon. (Best Bacon and Rib System on Earth)

Because drying/ cooking/ smoking is so important in the final product, it is surprising that many owners/ investors or managers base their decision on “an easy deal” or the cheapest option available to them. The wrong smokehouse partners are one of the most expensive mistakes we’ve made at Woody’s!

The Kerres smoker has a hybrid system that incorporates both horizontal and vertical airflow. They offer it as an added option, but in my mind, it is an easy decision!

Drying and smoking are dependent on many factors. Airflow is amongst the most prominent features. Below is a clip showing the Kerres system. The hybrid system is a stroke of genius. This system along with an introduction to the smokehouses of Kerres is dealt with in the video clip below.

Demonstrating the effectiveness of the hybrid smoking system

Below is a clip from a client of Kerres in the USA. Whether alginate casings are used for sausage production, or the grid system in bacon processing, the hybrid system is the best solution I ever came across. The clip below which I got from their website is absolutely astounding! See how close the shelves are stacked and how full they are loaded and have a look at the consistency! It is without a doubt the single most impressive display of what can be achieved in a smokehouse than I have ever seen!

Effectiveness of the Kerres Hybrid system demonstrated.

NPD: Vegetable Sausages

Vegetable sausages are nothing new to areas in the middle east, but the West has suddenly woken up to this important product class when it realised its heavy reliance on meat-based diets presents health challenges that cannot be overcome apart from reducing the consumption of meat.

This area of application represents a feature of DCD Technology that cannot be achieved more effectively in any other way. Let me state it like this. DCD technology makes the high throughput production line of such sausages possible. It speaks to the essence of the approach I followed in re-evaluating the production of hybrid sausages two years ago (Nose-to-Tail and Root-to-Tip: Re-Thinking Emulsions).


The matter of final product packaging and shelf life is closely related as is shelf life and raw materials used in the blending and filling stage. In general, shelf life will be achieved through:

  • Level of water binding achieved;
  • Pressure from the DCD processing system of Green Cell on key ingredients;
  • The use of LAE both included into the meat mix as well as fogging the roll stock pouch after forming and fogging into the pouch after packing.

If applied correctly, this natural preservative will extend the product shelf life dramatically. The key to the effectiveness of the product is dosage and application method which we are in the process of addressing. Watch this space for updates and announcements!

Using the combined approach as outlined above yields unsurpassed shelf-life results.


Over the years I have seen the tremendous benefit in stepping periodically back from one’s work and re-evaluating everything I have learned and asking the question if there is not a better way of doing it. This is true when it comes to bacon production technology (Best Bacon and Rib System on Earth). I have not yet integrated a new application of the Kerres smoker technology to the article I just cited on bacon production, but I will do this over the weeks following and publish it as new and updated articles.

In our current consideration of the best Frankfurter style sausage system available, the Kerres smokehouse technology, along with LAE and DCD Technology draws years of work together into a complete and extremely versatile and productive system.

Africa is emerging as the future economic powerhouse and the driver of world markets, and I am honoured to be a small part of this awakening when it comes to meat processing technology.

Further Reading

The Freezing and Storage of Meat

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Notes on Comminution and Digestability

Notes on Comminution and Digestability
Eben van Tonder
11 Sptember 2021


I am now 52 years old and have two teeth missing and one is cracked which the dentist suggested I don’t have anything done too until I replaced the two missing ones with implants. It goes with the territory of being 50+! 🙂 I discovered that it is much harder for me to eat meat with two molars missing and one that I cant use to chew. I recently bought a liquidiser and started to make fruit and vegetable smoothies for lunch and supper. A world opened up for me!

After making smoothies morning, evening and at night for a few weeks now, I understand much more about bowl cutting. In fact, my first lesson teaching bowl cutting techniques will in the future start with a liquidiser. After a week, I had good cause to suspect that I digest my food much better than before which made me re-look at the relationship between comminution and digestibility. More broadly, I ask the question what are the different factors influencing digestibility from the perspective of food preparations.

I give the notes based on extensive quotes from two studies.

The Li Study (2017) on Pork Digestability

The first study I referenced was that of Li (2017) where they compared digestability when pork products were prepared by cooking, emulsifying in emulsified-type sausage, dry-cured and stewed pork. The pH was adjusted to 2 after which gastric pepsin and trypsin were used to digest. After incubation at 37oC for 2 hours, pH was adjusted to 7.5. The pork sausages were cooked at 72oC. “The in vitro digestibility was expressed as the percentage of the difference in protein contents before and after digestion.” (Li, 2017)

The results of the Li (2017) study is as follows:

Pork products were made with pork longissimus dorsi muscles from the same carcasses.

  • The four products evaluated showed a “significant differences in protein digestibility.”
  • Highest digestability was emulsion-type sausage at both conditions.
  • The lowest digestability was stewed pork, after pepsin digestion alone, followed by trypsin digestion,
  • Cooked pork and dry-cured pork had similar digestability after pepsin digestion. Dry-cured pork was lower in digestibility than cooked pork after trypsin digestion.

I give their methods of preparing the experiments with each relevant discussion point grouped together for each of the 4 preparation methods.


Preparation: Stewed pork was prepared according to the following formulations: pork muscle was vertically divided into strips (5 cm width) and cooked. The stewing was done as follows: Pork strips were blanched in boiling water for 5 min, chilled and cut into 5 × 5 × 5 cm cubes. The cubes were pan-fried (180 °C) for 5 min with soybean oil (10 g kg−1 of meat) on a pot-induction surface. The cubes were fried and turned twice at an interval of 60 s (skin side not fried) and then cooked in boiling water (water/meat: 1/4) for 5 min. After that, the cubes were stewed at 100 °C for 150 min. Eight replicates were applied for each product.

Discussion: “For stewed pork, long-time cooking may induce proteins to oxidation and aggregation that affects proteolytic susceptibility.” In the present study, stewed pork was cooked at higher temperature and for much longer time than the other three pork products, which may cause a higher level of protein oxidation and aggregation, and lower digestibility. The difference in digestibility between Bax et al. (2012) and the present study could be attributed to distinct cooking time (0.5 h vs. 1.5 h).

Dry Cured Pork

Preparation: Dry-cured pork was prepared as follows: curing with 5% salt and sun-drying for one month. The dry-cured pork was softened in hot water and cooked to the center temperature of 72 °C.

Discussion: For dry-cured pork, salting and drying are two critical steps, during which protein surface hydrophobicity increases and dehydration, oxidation and aggregation occur as well.

Cooked Pork

Preparation: Cooked pork was prepared according to the following steps: pork muscle was cut vertically into 15 × 10 × 5 cm pieces that were packed in retort pouch and directly cooked in water bath till the center temperature reached 72 °C.

Discussion: Cooking temperature has a distinct influence on the proteolytic susceptibility of myofibrillar proteins to digestive enzymes. At 70 °C, moderate denaturation happens to meat proteins with the exposure of more protein cleavage sites accessible to digestive enzymes. However, protein oxidation and aggregation would increase at 100 °C or higher temperatures, which is a condensing effect (Promeyrat, Bax, Traore, Aubry, Sante-Lhoutellier & Gatellier, 2010), but meat protein overall digestibility would be improved at high temperature (Bax et al., 2012).

Emulsion Sausages

Preparation: Emulsion-type sausage was prepared according to the following formulation: pork muscle and back fat at a ratio of 4 to 1, salt (1.8%) and tripolyphosphate (0.4%). Meat and fat were chopped using a high-speed chopper during which salt and tripolyphosphate were mixed, and the batter was stuffed into 48-mm-diameter plastic casings. The sausages were cooked till the centre temperature reached 72 °C.

Discussion: Although emulsion-type sausage, dry-cured pork and cooked pork were cooked at the same temperature (70 °C), an emulsifying system was formed during the preparation of emulsion-type sausage, and the fat droplets around muscle fibres would decrease protein oxidation and aggregation (Youssef, Barbut, & Smith, 2011), and thus increase the digestibility.

Conslusion from Li (2017) Study

The Li (2017) study introduced me to factors impacting digestibility such as oxidation and aggregation along with the fascinating effect of fat on this process in fine comminuted products. Further, cooking times and temperatures and their impact on aggregation and compacting as temperatures rich 100oC. I have an interesting story about this. A few months ago I was testing an emulsion type sausage and the cooking pot malfunctioned, boiling the sausage at 100oC for half an hour. When I opened the cooking pot and discovered this the natural hog casings I used were all cooked off but amazingly the sausages aggregated and compacted to such an extent that the sausages were all still almost perfectly intact.

Casing cooked off at 100o C for 30 minutes. A good example of aggregation.

Casing cooked off at 100o C for 30 minutes. A good example of aggregation.

When I repeated this at 72oC I did not nearly have the same “compacting” effect. The products were made with 45% MDM and 10% product which I made from beef hide. The sausages that I made with the same inclusion of MDM but 10% product I made from collagen did not have the same dramatic effect of compacting and aggregation. By adding these materials I obviously moved outside a direct application of the Li (2017) study, but the observations are nevertheless fascinating and the points of aggregation and compacting are well demonstrated.

Farouk (2019) Study on Beef-Centric Meals Digestability

I give the different aspects they investigated and their conclusions.

Animal Age

Beef protein was highly digestible regardless of the age of animal from which the meat was collected (4-day-old calf, 18- to 24-month-old bull, or 6-year-old cow).

Rigor State

The time of sampling of LD muscle (prerigor, from 50 min through 200 min postmortem) had little influence on the digestibility of beef proteins, and this was not markedly affected by rigor at 48 h.

Ultimate pH

The proteins of high ultimate pH meat digested faster than their low ultimate pH equivalent. Densitometry measurements of each gel lane were used to calculate digestion efficiencies and rates for each of the treatment combinations. Physiological and biochemical mechanisms underpinning the greater digestibility of high ultimate pH beef have been discussed by Farouk et al..

Muscle/ Meat Cuts

While there were few differences up to 5 min, by 60 min supraspinatus appeared more digested (fewer and fainter protein bands), suggesting that this cut might be faster and more thoroughly digested.

Mincing/Particle Size

There was little effect of particle size on the digestibility of cooked proteins in meat. Exposure of meat proteins to pepsin activity in vitro should have been much greater for the finely milled substrate, yet this did not markedly influence the rate or extent of proteolysis. Note that the samples were milled and not finely chopped in a bowl cutter or similar. Particle size was therefore still relatively large,

Organ Meats

The structure and composition of organ meats is substantially different from muscle meat, and this has consequences for digestion. For instance, the protein content of the heart, kidney and spleen from prime steers was 10–27% less on a fresh-weigh basis. Digestion commenced at a significantly faster pace for the kidney and liver compared to muscle, when evaluated as the relative digestibility of T5. The lower molecular weight and globular nature of the kidney and liver proteins likely contribute to their faster in vitro digestibility.

Discussion: Animal organ meat, sometimes referred to as offal or the fifth quarter of a carcass, is only a minor contribution to typical Western diets for a variety of reasons, thus missing out on its potential culinary and nutritional values. Connective tissue substances are resistant to in vitro digestion with pepsin and so lowered the total relative peptic digestibility of calf beef compared to the older cattle. They were more digested (less intense) in prerigor bull beef than in 48 h postrigor, in less collagenous cuts compared to higher rcontaining cuts, and in finely ground milled meat compared to coarsely smashed meat.

Meat Accompaniments

An online survey of menus from New Zealand and Australia restaurants revealed that the most common accompaniments served with red meat were potato, onion, mushroom, tomato, rice, noodle, bean, and carrot. This is varied slightly by country and markedly by cuisine. For instance, in New Zealand, noodle, rice, and bean were more popular at Asian restaurants, while potato, mushroom, and tomato were more popular with European cuisine.

SDS PAGE separation of proteins and peptides in the digesta of beef cooked with the top five accompaniments plus pumpkin showed that meats from all three age categories of animals (4-day-old calf, 18- to 24-month-old bull, or 6-year-old cow) were most digestible when cooked with mushroom, whereas digestion was least efficient when the meats were cooked with rice and potatoes. Based on relative digestibility calculation and averaging over all animal ages, the rank order of protein digestibility was found to be mushroom > pumpkin > onion = tomato > rice > potato.

Bull meat cooked with mushrooms was very effective in promoting digestion through the gastric and intestinal phases. In contrast, meat cooked by itself did not digest completely even after 240 min.

Enhanced digestion from cooking with mushroom (and pumpkin) could be due to the presence of endogenous proteolytic enzymes in these vegetables that were not present in the other accompaniments.

Conclusions from the Farouk (2019) Study

Prerigor, low collagen supraspinatus muscle finely ground prior to cooking would be judged more digestible than the alternatives in these experiments.

Sustainable production of animals as a source of food demands that we make full use of every carcass. Unlocking the potential of the less familiar cuts and promoting their inherent benefits is an important role for nutritional research. Beef organ meats/ofals such as liver and kidney were more digestible than muscle meat from the same carcass.  This suggests new opportunities for organ meat as a versatile ingredient, perhaps by formulating highly digestible animal protein foods for infants with less developed GIT or for elder consumers with compromised GIT function.  The soft texture and minimal myofribril content of the liver and kidney also offer functionality. These could be a valuable resource for the 1st and 3rd age consumer groups who struggle with chewing and swallowing muscle meat.

Well-informed combining can also produce beneficial biochemical synergies. For instance, consuming orange juice that contains ascorbic and citric acids will enhance the bioavailability of ferric iron in plant foods. It is possible that some accompaniments affect the digestion of food and so might be chosen to optimise benefits for a particular consumer or to better suit an occasion.

Regarding the effect of cooking, it is important to note that cooking meat on its own has variable effects on meat digestibility depending on both temperature and time. For instance, peptic digestibility of beef is lowered, and pancreatic digestibility is enhanced when meat is cooked quickly to 100°C, with longer cooking at the same temperature reducing overall susceptibility of meat proteins to proteolytic enzymes; cooking pork mildly at 70°C enhanced peptic digestion, while at 100°C slowed peptic digestion. In the present study, the combined meat and accompaniments were cooked at 100°C; cooking at this temperature with some of the accompaniments improved the digestibility of muscle meat from animals of all ages; Mushroom affected the bull beef. Note that even the resistant proteins near 42–40 kDa were digested by T30. A zymogram of the enzymes in extracts of accompaniments revealed proteolytic enzymes in mushroom and pumpkin. These enzymes may be contributing to digestibility. Mushroom and pumpkin are known to contain proteolytic enzymes, but their effects on wholetissue digestion had not been demonstrated.

Within the parameters of the present study, beef was observed to be more digestible or digested faster when it came from an older animal, at prerigor, and when it had high ultimate pH or contained less collagen content. Some beef organ meats were more digestible than beef muscle. Digestibility improved when meat was cooked with vegetables that contain proteolytic enzymes and diminished slightly with carbohydrate-rich or starchy foods such as rice and potatoes.


Factors Affecting the Digestibility of Beef and Consequences for Designing Meat-Centric Meals. Farouk, M. F., Wu, G., Frost, D. A., Staincliffe, M., and Knowles, S. O..

Li, L., Liu, Y,. Zou, X., He, J., Xu, X., Zhou, G., Li, C.. 2017. In vitro protein digestibility of pork products is affected by the method of processing. Food Research International 92 (2017) 88–94; Elsevier.

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Ode to the Russian Sausage – a Technical Evaluation

Eben van Tonder

Easter Weekend, 2021


The history of the South African sausage called a Russian has been dealt with in great detail by myself in Origins of the South African Sausage, Called a Russian. This is a more technical evaluation.

I interpose after every technical consideration with photos from the last 18 months of work and some comments on the progression of our story. It serves as a repository of my private recollections of the project.

Between April 2018 and August 2019, I worked for the Johannesburg meat processor, Van Wyngaardt. I adjusted their pure meat block of Russians by adding soy. So started a quest to produce a high quality, low-cost Russian which consumed me for the past 18 months. I started thinking about Russians from scratch.” (VWG subsequently returned to a pure meat Russian)

The photo on the left is of my daughter Lauren and me at our Solheim home in Johannesburg. She joined me to provide impetus to VWG’s in-store work which she did with passion and excellence. The photos below are of Minette and Brussouw during the lockdown, the Johannesburg skyline seen on the last day I spend at VWG and a trolley of VWG Russians.

Fine Meat Mixes vs Course Mixes

The Russian sausage, similar to polony, developed as a way to work away unused scraps of leftover meat in the butchery. By “leftover meats” we do not mean inferior meat. It is inevitable that bits of meat are left after the meat was trimmed neatly and these scraps are of the highest quality. It was the practice in butcheries across the country in the 1800s and early 1900s to mince any leftover offal and discarded sausage meat very finely to be cooked in casings from animal intestines and to sell it as polony (The Origins of Polony). The reason for reducing various meat scraps to the same physical state was to create something that looks uniform. Larger and small bits of high-quality meat from all the species were combined into Russians.

The difference between polony and Russians was that polony would contain only finely ground meat but Russians would contain the same finely ground meat as a base but larger bits of meat would be added called “showpieces.” Russians would be viewed as of a higher quality than polony.

Over the years technology improved to chop the meat into smaller particles. Meat grinders have been generally available for many years and different plate sizes were made available to adjust the coarseness. The smallest plate size would be used for the fine meat base. Later bowl cutters were introduced being a rotating bowl with a set of knives chopping the meat into even smaller particles. This meant that some butchers had very smooth and finely chopped meat as the base for the Russians and those who could not afford the new equipment continued doing it all by hand or through a meat grinder. Some of these butchers could afford the new high-speed equipment but preferred to continue doing the mincing of the meat by hand as some still prefer to this day. Doing it by hand or only with a meat grinder yields understandably a less smooth meat base than if it’s done with more sophisticated equipment.

Two distinct styles of Russians developed. One with a very smooth texture for the meat base into which the large showpieces are embedded and another with an altogether courser meat base. Which one to prefer became completely a matter of taste and any perception that the Russian with a smoother base is inferior to a more course base is unfounded.

My personal quest to understand Russians better intensified during the nationwide Covid-19 lockdown. My good friend, Dr Francois Mellett helped me to understand the basics. An equally good friend from Canada, Robert Goodrick, arguably the best butcher on planet earth, schooled me in old-school butchers techniques and how to make Russians without bowl cutters. In between the help from Francois and Robert, the team from Deli Spices was a great inspiration opening my eyes to the power of proper mixing!”

Photo on the right is an iconic photo when Francois and I sneaked some seawater away for desperate fish. More I can not say. 😉 Bottom left is Robert Goodrick, the middle photo is me, Arno Pienaar and Tshepo Setshogoe, a legendary Russian maker! As I recall, the trials with Deli was done a week before lockdown in April. We tested the overall water-holding of fist-size trip pork trim pieces and a simple Russian recipe without a fine meat paste, using only the meat grinder. If we go out and over many beers, I will tell you the story of Francois and me when that photo was taken! 🙂

Firmness, Texture and Tradition

A Russian is not a pure fine meat past sausage and is, therefore, firmer than for example polony or a Vienna (which are pure fine meat past products). Here in Cape Town, a Russian which is made from fine meat past only is called a smoky or a penny polony (if it’s coloured pink). The finer a meat paste is made, the softer it is.

It has become convention to make Russians from mechanically deboned chicken meat in South Africa and many other parts of the continent. MDM is not inferior meat as many people think. It is simply chicken meat that has been removed and processed through mechanical means. (Poultry MDM: Notes on Composition and Functionality) Most large processors use micro-cutters in processing Russians and put the MDM through the process of micro-cutting also. A consequence of the production of MDM is unfortunately damage to the meat structure which results in a “softer” meat bind. Generally, how well the meat binds together after chopping depends very much on the character and quality of the starting material and if the structure of the meat is slightly damaged, micro-cutting does not help. If one puts MDM through a micro-cutter it leaves the resultant meat paste even softer. Due to this, various techniques are used to firm MDM up when producing Russians. The two most important ones are adding serials or legumes and adding meat trim or only fat. For a technical evaluation of this, I refer you to, Review of comminuted and cooked meat product properties from a sol, gel and polymer viewpoint.

There is a misconception among many that adding serials and legumes to Russians is not traditional. In my article, Origins of the South African Sausage, Called a Russian, I point out that it is the most traditional thing that can be added to the sausage and the origins of the practice come from Russia where emulsifiers and meat extenders evolved from meat stew technology which goes back millennia. In my article, Protein Functionality, the Bind Index and the Early History of Meat Extenders in America, I trace the introduction of this Russian technology into the Western world in some detail.

The legume of choice in the meat industry is soy and it is widely used as an ingredient of Russians to increase the firmness of the product. It is also convention to add either pork or beef trim with a good bit of fat to the mix which firms the product up substantially. Russians today are basically produced in the same way that it has been done for hundreds of years and it required a firmer texture than is not achieved from finely chopped meat pasts only.

During the lockdown, I got to know the work of Petr Pakhomov from St Petersburg who is not just a Master Butcher, but an artist and one of the best exponents of the art of fine meat pasts. He opened my eyes to what is possible with Russians. I continued to study every aspect of possible ingredients in meat pasts. A concept started forming from the need to use all the natural resources at our disposal in the creation of these products. I summarised this in Nose-to-Tail and Root-to-Tip: Re-Thinking Emulsions. This made me look long and hard at all the various bits available from the carcass.

The photo on the left is of Petr Pakhomov and below is a selection of his creations. Petr famously says that he “paints with meat.”

Best Quality at Lowest Price – Invitation to Creativity

From the earliest times in South Africa, Russians were intended to be quality nutrition at the lowest possible price. Its fame was secured when it became a favourite on the Johannesburg goldfields. Inspired by concepts I saw used by Urban Foods in Nepal (Kathmandu’s Urban Food) I set out with the support of Etlin International, to develop these and create various finely comminuted meat pasts and pasts from other protein sources to be used in conjunction with MDM, meat trim, soy and starch in Russian formulations. In reality, we are building on a long tradition of making quality food affordable. I anchored most of my work in taking the concept of finely comminuting meat particles to the next level through the application of revolutionary microparticle technology, pioneered by a Cape Town company.

If a finer and smoother meat past is created with smaller meat particles, microparticles will be the next frontier. It is simply the continuation along an age-old trajectory. At first, reducing meat to small bits was done by hand. Ancient humans started to stuff small meat scraps into intestines at the kill site along with blood in order to transport it back to the tribe. For our primitive forefathers, the cost of a kill would be too great for one morsel of meat to be wasted. Cutting the meat into smaller pieces continued at the village. The earliest humans realised that reducing the meat to small meat fractions made it easier to chew. This was also in all likelihood the reason why early people started frying, roasting and cooking their meat. Ease of consumption was a huge issue to overcome!

So, at first, we finely chopped meat by hand. When the meat grinder was invented humans used a fine mincer plate to create smaller meat particles. Smaller meat particles meant a softer bite and a more versatile batter. This was followed by the invention of the bowl chopper which could reduce the meat size even further and finally micro cutters (emulsifiers) were invented to achieve an even finer particle size. A South African company pioneered technology able to create sub 50 microparticle which results in an even smoother and softer bite than was ever before possible.

A hallmark of the production of a Russian has always been creativity and making the best of raw material available at any given time and place! Turning scraps of meat into a work of art and a culinary masterpiece!

Over the 18 months, numerous friends in meat processing with factories welcomed me to run trails. Thank you to every one of you! Many I can’t mention for a variety of reasons but you know who you are! Below are photos from some of the many trails we did, each getting us a bit closer to our goal. I finally started getting traction with a few regular testing sites and when our Food Science Team started taking shape with the appointment of Dr Jess, we achieved very positive momentum. It took many frustrating months before we started working out the best way to use this technology. We ended up learning to use new technology, creating old school mixes with new technology while we were re-discovering the basics of Russian making. Our final set of trails for this round we did at PB Juicy in Maitland. Sincere thanks to Graham, Lesley, Stanford and Shelton to mention just a few along with the amazing staff who helped me on Saturday; who packed our samples and helped us prepare and participated in the tasting.


The Easter Contest and Evaluation

Over 18 months we not only re-looked every aspect of making Russians but we also developed new ways of processing several sets of ingredients. The team was ready to put their new processes and ingredients to the test. Jess, Jan and Eben, the three parties working closest with the formulations of the new ingredients all came up with their own Russian recipes and the day before Easter 2021 we decided to put the ingredients we were working on and our own Russian formulations to the test. It was a fun way to showcase the power of our new sets of ingredients.

We each created our own Russian mix but we all included the new sets of raw materials which we developed. We used a mincer and a Kar Schnell Micro Cutter for the final cutting.

I smoked it for 40 minutes and then cooked it to an core temperature of 68 deg C.

The following day I returned for three sets of evaluation.

  • Pan-Fried
  • Braaied on an open fire
  • Deep-Fried in oil.

– Deep Fry Evaluation

For the Deep Fry Evaluation, we visited Marina’s Deli in Monte Vista where we were delighted to meet the Deli Owner who personally did the tasting for us. He immediately picked up that there was soy in the product and even though his clients will not buy a Russian if it is not pure meat, he personally gave us a thumbs up for both Jess and my formulations!

– Braai and Pan-Fried Evaluation

For the braai and pan-fried evaluation, we visited PB Juicy (Pty) Ltd. in Maitland, Cape Town where their amazing staff not only fried our Russians up but also assisted us in the evaluation.

– Loads of Fun and Valuable Insights

It was a huge success. Even though Jan’s recipe did not firm up as well as Eben and Jess’s recipes, we again learned bucket loads from the evaluation of all 3 Russians. Jan showed how well his formulation would work with luncheon meats and polony! Despite small differences, both the Jess and Eben formulation worked very well and I extend a hearty congratulations to Jess, my partner-in-crime for an excellent creation and to Jan for boldly going where we have not gone before! In the end, we proved the use of our new set of ingredients to reduce the production cost of Russians while maintaining a high-quality product!

Ode to the Russian Sausage

We finally come to the purpose of this post namely to celebrate the Russian! Having spent so much time with this sausage over so many months, it is only fitting to write a poem for it! 🙂 I believe all worthy endeavours in life should bring us to this point!

The Russian! What a universal delight!
Melting the refined with boldness; the smooth with firmness
Scraps of meat from its place of birth.;
Hunger-buster in deep-Johannesburg earth!

Chopping and grinding and micro-cutting!
Meat chunks and eastern legumes combining! 
Morsels of power from the butcher’s block
Satisfying nutrition in this hard land, it unlocks!

Filling in clean casings and to the oven, it goes!
Drying and smoking and drying and smoking! To cooking! 
Not sweating! Look, it’s firming out!
In the artisan’s hand is predetermined luck!

Invented by Russians of Jewish descent!
In its new African home, it is profitable appeasement! 
Salt and vinegar from the enemies table,
Russian and chips! Feuds and animosity it disable!

Well, maybe I should continue to focus on making the product and not trying to write poetry! 🙂 🙂 🙂

I am not the only one who gets lyrical when it comes to Russians. Kobus Botes, a South African friend, living in Australia sent me this recollection after reading this post.

“I remember in the mid-to-late ’60s in Vryburg, when I was walking past the local Greek café, I bought a russian and chips to treat myself occasionally. The russian was given slits to prevent it from bursting and was deep fried with the chips and it was also given salt and vinegar together with the chips. The texture and flavour is something that is still burned into my memory. The bite started off with the oily, vinagary and salty taste, then suddenly the skin burst under the pressure of the bite. Next is a flavour and texture sensation of garlic, meat, salt, fat with a vinegar undertone. The texture was firm, with large pieces of pork fat and other large pieces of meat with a darker colour. I suspect both beef (larger pieces) and pork (finer texture) was used. Over the years I have stopped buying processed sausages at all because they all became to have a similar texture and taste. Everything is becoming like polony with modern chemicals and emulsifiers being added. Nowadays, I mostly buy imported processed meat from Italy or I make it myself. All I need is to find the authentic recipe of the russians from my childhood.”

Another South African friend from Australia, Justin (Dave) Dwyer, writes, “this certainly brings back memories of being an apprentice in the late eighties early nineties at Zululand Baconry if I had a half-cent for every Russian made I would be a very rich man. Texture is key emulsion with showpieces was the trend, then upgrading to MDM from pork skin emulsion Wow never thought I would even use those words again living in Australia, thanks for the interesting article and memories!”

A fully functional Food Science Team was created comprising of Dr Jess Goble, Marco, Helena and me to give greater impetus to these developments. Helena, Jess and myself are featured in the photo to the left at a hotel in Johannesburg where we did a product evaluation.

The team is, in reality, much wider! It also included meat professionals around the country who continue to give us advice and direction to our efforts. The feat of finally producing a sausage with a combination of old school technology and new innovations was achieved through the collective participation of every person who worked with us from around the country and includes the staff of Van Wyngaardt, Etlin’s processing facility in Durban, PB Jucy, Roy Oliver and input we received from as far afield as Nigeria. A small number of these people are in the photos below. I even include my cousin, Marius Kok who introduced me to Hungarians from Zambia.

The Next Frontier

What we achieved over the last 18 months is only the beginning. There is still tonnes to learn! I feel like a child who has only been playing and the real discoveries and creations all lay in the future!

Some of the points on our agenda for the immediate future are:

  • Raw materials must be refined;
  • The taste profile must be further developed;
  • The latest innovations in ingredient technology such as modified starches, fibres, soy technology, preservation technology, etc. must be investigated and the best new sets of ingredients must be incorporated into our products and processes.
  • The experience we gained must be packaged and made available to the meat processing industry at large.
  • The role and importance of frozen meat ingredients and temperature control during processing must be elucidated and incorporated.

We are only beginning but on this Easter weekend, it is right to pause a bit and celebrate how far we have come with this project. Sincere thanks to Etienne Lotter who allows us to do this work, to my teammates both near and far, to customers who are always willing to try new ideas – a heartfelt “Thank You!”

Review of comminuted and cooked meat product properties from a sol, gel and polymer viewpoint.

November 1992
R. A. LaBudde


Dr RA LaBudde does a great treatment of fine emulsions. There are of course many other excellent works on the subject but the language LaBudde used, I can understand!

I give the work of Dr LaBudde on the subject here in its entirety. It is important to remember that this is only one half of the equation. Meat processing is an art as much as it is a science. For the “art” we will feature the work of the Master Butcher from Saint Petersburg, from Russia, who gave the world fine meat emulsions, Petr Pakhomov.

The fact that we call the most famous fine emulsion sausage in South Africa, a Russian, comes from its Russian origin and was either introduced to South Africa by early immigrants or, more likely, by Russian volunteer who fought on the side of the Boers in the Anglo Boer War. Not just the Russians, but the people from the Balkans and Eastern Europe specialised in this and it was the Russians and East Europeans who brought this technology to America following World War One. People from the Russian steppe and surrounding regions pioneered the use of meat extenders and emulsifiers and fillers which probably developed from their milennia old soup technology. Fine emulsion sausages became important in America, after the war during sivere meat shortages. In central Africa the same sausage sold in South Africa as a Russian is called an Hungarian after the people who brough them the technology and traded it across the region. They produce it minus the showpieces and omitting these may be a later adaptation.

Petr Pakhomov is not just a Master Butcher, he is an artist and one of the best exponents of the art of fine meat emulsion. In a 2020 book he published on the subject, he writes: “This publication includes recipes for sausages from offal – an undervalued and rarely used raw material by sausages. On the counters of butcher shops there are hearts, liver, tongues – only these offal are well known to the townspeople and are in demand with them. The rumen, kidneys, brains, lungs, udders, properly prepared and cooked, are sometimes a discovery for people far from rural life. By-products allow you to create unusual in texture, very tasty, with a beautiful pattern on the cut, brawn, jellied, pate. A readily available and easy-to-use raw material is poultry meat. It serves as an excellent base for sausages and sausages, allowing you to play with taste thanks to the addition of various spice mixtures. The pale pink minced meat is a great backdrop for unusual cut patterns.”

“Of course, I have not ignored pork and beef products. My credo can be expressed by the words: “I paint with meat!” To make the sausage original, standing out on the counter among the usual – this task fascinates me. The appearance of the sausage product, the drawing on the cut should catch the eye of the buyer. Then comes the turn of consistency and taste, a successful combination of textures and spices.”

In this Petr strikes every single cord close to my hear and so, in celebration of his art and the science of Dr LaBudde I feature Petr’s work throughout the work of Dr LaBudde.


Comminuted and cooked meat products are viewed as water-plasticized, filled cell mixed-composite thermosetting plastic bio-polymer. This theoretical model is used to explain many factors influencing finished product quality attributes and to conjecture possible interactions between materials used in formulation. The relation between product texture and “bind” and “gel-strength” is described.


  1. Introduction
  2. Meat Process Control Concepts
  3. Meat Product Non-Chemical Properties
  4. Meat as a Polymer System
  5. Testing General Polymer Strength
  6. Testing Meat Product Gel Strength Properties
  7. Effects of Materials and Processing on Gel Strength
  8. Skin vs Bulk Strength
  9. Sensory Properties Influenced by Gel Strength
  10. Typical Lot-to-Lot Variation in a Frankfurter’s Texture

Exhibit 1: Process Control Logic
Exhibit 2: Force-Deformation Curve for Brittle Plastics
Exhibit 3: Force-Deformation Curve for Ductile Rubbers
Exhibit 4: Stress-Strain Relationship for Meats
Exhibit 5: Typical Lot-to-Lot Variation in Stress for a Frank

Appendix 1: Glossary
Appendix 2: Bibliography


Comminuted meat products include a wide range of consumable sausages: frankfurters, bologna, luncheon meats, smoked sausage, bratwursts, fresh sausage, ground meat, dry sausages and many others. We shall be principally concerned with cooked sausage which is intended to be bound together with some degree of strength in its manufacture. This is not intended to mean that this discussion is limited in applicability to these types of products, or even meat products in general, but to provide an example set of products for which the concepts described provide critical insight.

Most of the time we will be even more specific: the most frequent product examples used will be a frankfurter (cooked, fine-cut, eaten hot), a bologna (cooked, fine-cut, eaten cold) and a smoked sausage (cooked, ground, eaten hot). These particular products are sensitive to consumer perception of texture, represent a large volume of North American production and exemplify broad ranges of product categories.

Cooked sausage production of the frankfurter, bologna or smoked sausage types occurs in the following sequence of typical steps:

  1. The raw meats to be used are first ground to medium fineness. For lean meats (< 30% fat) this means to 3/16″ (5 mm) and for fat meats (> 30% fat) to 3/8″ (10 mm) or larger.
  2. The bulk of the meats used, together with 15% water and 2.5% salt and possibly sodium nitrite, are mixed together for 5 to 15 minutes at slow speed and dumped into vats.
  3. The “preblended” meats of Step 2 are left to age for 8 to 24 hours.
  4. A “final blend” is performed by mixing the “preblend” plus additional water together with sweeteners, spices and flavorings for 3 to 5 minutes.
  5. The “final blend” is dumped into an emulsification mill(s) or a fine grinder (< 1/8″ or 3mm).
  6. The fine-cut meat batter is stuffed into casings.
  7. The stuffed product is showered with liquid smoke and 2 – 4 % acetic acid.
  8. The product is cooked in a humidity and temperature controlled oven. A typical cook schedule might be: 30 min. @ 130 F (54 C), 30 min. @ 190 F (88 C). The humidity is low in the first stage, allowing the product to “shrink” and form a “skin”. The second stage will have a controlled humidity of at least 40% to promote rapid heat transfer. The product center temperature will be 160 to 170 F (71 to 77 C) leaving the oven.
  9. The cooked product is showered with cold water or brine for 15 to 30 minutes to bring its temperature to 35 F (2 C).
  10. The casings, if inedible, are removed by slitting and peeling.
  11. The product is packaged under vacuum or modified atmosphere.
    Cooked meat products are composed of a variety of basic substances: moisture, fat and protein (comprising some 94% of the weight), salts (2 – 3%) and carbohydrates (3 – 4%). The carbohydrates include starches, sugars and fiber. These constituents are the real raw materials used in making meat products: the raw meats are simply variable “preblends” of moisture, fat, protein, etc.


Process control is composed of five basic steps (see Exhibit 1):
1) Measurement,
2) Standards or Targets,
3) Comparison of Measured to Standards,
4) Plan of Action, and
5) Implementation of the Indicated Action.

Obviously no control will be exerted if no observations of the process output are made (“open loop”). Similarly, measurements by themselves would supply little value if there were not a desired target to compare to, and if this comparison is not made, the size, if any, of the correction needed would be indeterminate. A pre-defined plan of action is essential to avoid “human-in-the-loop” over- and under-correction. The selection of which, if any, corrective action is needed must be based on the objective size of the difference from targets or standards.

It is very important to realize that proper control requires not only the measurements of the process average and its deviation from target, but also the process variation and its deviation from its standard operating range. Only after the process variation is brought under control is the process average a meaningful quantity.

Process control on cooked sausage involves measurement of average values and variation on basic analytical, nutritional, microbiological and sensory properties.

Generally by government regulation or company-imposed standards, the moisture, fat, protein, salt and nutritional content (calories, type of fat, cholesterol, vitamins, minerals and carbohydrates) and microbiological content of the product will be constrained to at least onesided limits.

Process planning and control on such analytical attributes is based on the following typical steps:

  1. Each raw material used (meats, flavorings, etc.) is characterized by laboratory analysis of successive lot samples. The frequency of sampling and accuracy of analysis is tailored to be sufficiently predictive without excess expense.
  2. Each product batch is formulated to obtain a desired target value on each attribute. The target is designed to provide protection against process and material variability causing the actual production lot value from violating the outgoing specification requirement.
  3. For easily measured attributes (moisture, fat, protein), a laboratory analysis of the production blend may be performed, and the error in target reduced by addition of “correction” materials in the final blend.
  4. Samples of production lots are taken as packaged and subjected to quality assurance testing to verify compliance with outgoing specifications.

In addition to analyte attribute control, consumer acceptance of a product requires sufficient consistency in certain sensory properties of the cooked sausage. The attributes of most importance include:

  1. Skin Texture
  2. Bulk Texture or “Bind”
  3. Skin Color
  4. Bulk Color
  5. Saltiness
  6. Sweetness
  7. Flavor (from spice, etc.)
  8. Purge loss
  9. Net Weight
  10. Shrinkage (Moisture loss in processing)

With the exception of net weight, these attributes are subject to only internally-imposed limits. Consequently the means of their control require development of methods not required or sponsored by regulatory organizations. The development of methods of measurement and control has therefore been left to company or university research and has lagged behind the other attributes non-specific to meat products.


The cooked sausage non-analytical properties mentioned above (texture, color, etc.), although not determinable by chemical analysis, are still important to monitor and control.

Skin texture is the chief component of the “bite” of a product. The skin is “tougher” than the product interior provides an initial “snap” during eating. Products with edible (natural or collagen) casings can be manufactured as tough as desired. Skinless products only retain a softer protein-based skin due to smoke, acid and initial oven treatments. A proper balance between skin and internal texture is necessary. Too tough a skin will create the sensation of a “mushy” interior, which may be squeezed out of the skin during biting. Too soft a skin will cause the product to be uniform in texture with little “snap”.

Skin color is principally determined by smoke and acid treatments, and secondarily by the initial oven stage (temperature and humidity) and meat pigment content. Skin color is of importance only in small diameter product, and its darkness is a matter of taste. In products where skin color is important, consistency from batch-to-batch and within-batch is the primary issue.

Bulk texture is the chief component of the “chew” or intermediate and final texture on eating. Too weak a bulk texture and the product will seem “mushy”, too tough and the product will seem “rubbery”. Bulk texture is of critical importance in sliced product, or product with special strength needs, such as corn dogs.

Similarly, bulk color is of importance only in sliced products. Bulk color is determined almost entirely by nitrite level, meat pigment content and the final cook stage time and temperature. Preblend holding time is also a factor.

Saltiness, sweetness and flavor are normally controlled by set addition levels of salt, sweeteners and flavorings in the blend. No measurement normally occurs, with the exception of routine taste tests.

Purge loss or “syneresis” is a serious issue in vacuum packaged products. Significant liquid in the package creates the impression of defective or spoiled product. This liquid is an inconvenience to the consumer (drainage from package after opening) and encourages bacterial growth. Purge loss in bulk-packaged products may cause container damage or contamination, and will affect the net weight per unit of the product at the time of use.

Net weight per package or per unit is a function of stuffing level, process shrink and purge loss. Variation in stuffing level or cook shrink will cause variation in the net weight at the time of packaging. Excessive net weight variation will directly increase product weight “giveaway”. Product used in further processing, such as “corn dogs”, may have problems meeting its final combined product labeling requirements.


Meat products have long been subject to mis-classification by researchers using inappropriate technical terms.

In the 1960’s and 1970’s the uncooked meat batter was described as an “emulsion” and the “emulsifying” properties of the meat proteins were thought to dominate the development of cooked product textural attributes. This led to flawed arguments regarding causal relationships between processing, materials used and final product properties.

From the late 1980’s to the 1990’s, researchers discarded the “emulsion” concept for a different viewpoint of a meat “sol” converting to a “gel” upon cooking. These terms are, however, still misnomers since “sol” and “gel” are applicable only to dilute (< 10%) colloidal dispersions.

Technically the uncooked meat mixture is a “paste”, not an “emulsion” or “sol”, since solids content is 40% or more. Upon cooking to a high enough temperature, the “paste” sets to hardened “plastic” material.

Because of these misclassifications, there is considerable confusion in the use of colloid science terms to describe meat systems. To avoid creating an entirely new vocabulary, we will use the current terminology of “gelling” or “gelation” synonymously for “setting” or “hardening”.

“Meat” is the protein-rich flesh of animals. For our purposes here, fish and poultry flesh are “meat”. As stated before, cooked sausage products are a mix of water, fat, protein, salts and carbohydrates gelled and set into a solid mass by the application of heat.

The principal functionality in forming the gelled and set mass comes from the long-chain proteins present and to a lesser extent from the long-chain carbohydrates (starches and gums). When the meat paste is heated above the set-point temperature, the long-chain molecules, supported in solution or at least hydrated by water, are forced to partially uncoil and form irreversiblez cross-linkages. The result is a three-dimensional crosslinked matrix which incorporates the water, fats, salts and fillers within its structure.

A simple paradigm for the mechanism involved is the hard-boiling of a common hen’s egg. The egg is initially liquid and is composed mostly of protein and water with a small amount of fat. When heat is applied above the “set-point” temperature, the protein unfolds and aggregates, forming the rubbery hard-boiled egg consistency. As is obvious, the water component is just as essential as the protein component: dried eggs do not hard boil! The water hydrates the protein molecules and allows mobility for unfolding and crosslinking.

The salts present in the water phase help ionically stabilize the unfolded protein molecules so that its structure can be more easily exposed. The function of salt may be easily seen by adding it to the water used to hard-boil an egg. If the shell is cracked so that a streamer of egg-white is forced out by internal pressure on heating, the presence of salt in the water will cause it to instantly coagulate and seal the crack.

To some extent fats also stabilize hydrophobic protein exposure. They also serve, with other water-insoluble components, simply to fill space and stiffen the protein matrix formed.

Starches and gums will hydrogen-bond and crosslink similar to proteins, and bind appreciable amounts of water. Generally the gelling temperature for such compounds is 90 C or higher, which is seldom obtained in meat processing. Non-gelling or insoluble carbohydrates principally act as mild water binders and matrix fillers. The strength of water-binding is moderate and due to capillary action and hydrogen-bonding, as opposed to irreversible crosslinking. The crystalline nature of a cooled starch gel results in a brittle texture which has little strength after fracture.

Non-meat proteins which are soy- or milk-based (soy flour, soy protein concentrate, soy protein isolate, whey protein concentrate, whey protein isolate, casein) have gel-points of 90 C or more, and function similar to starches in hydrogen-bonding with water to form weak gels at low temperatures.

Since meat’s texture is due to its property of heat-induced long-chain gelling or setting, cooked meat is classifiable as a water-plasticized, filled-cell mixed-composite thermosetting plastic biopolymer.

The word “polymer” denotes long-chain macromolecules which are crosslinked, such as proteins or starches.

The word “plasticizer” indicates that water is the filling solvent that hydrates the polymer and supports its “plastic” behavior.

The word “mixed” denotes possible crosslinking between different polymers, such as different proteins or proteins and cross-linked gums or starches.

The “fillers” present in meat products are fat or insolubles: in rubber tires, it is the carbon that makes the rubber black. Fillers normally will “stiffen” a plastic or rubber, making it harder and less stretchable. Sometimes fillers are active (such as the carbon in rubber tires) and actually bind to the setting polymers present. In this case the filler may increase strength dramatically (ten times or more), and out of proportion to its relative presence on a formula basis.

Additional plasticizer will soften and make more stretchable the polymer matrix. Removal of plasticizer will make the plastic harder and more “brittle” (i.e., less stretchable).

Skin texture in casingless product is formed in a more complicated manner. The proteins are gelled not only through the heat of cooking, but also through the mechanisms of water loss (shrinkage), pH (acid rinse) and smoke application. Therefore only proteins and carbohydrates which gel under these conditions will reinforce “skin” formation. Other materials will in general weaken skin strength by dilution or formation of flaw points.


In order to understand the significance of tests performed on meat products, it is necessary to first review the mechanical strength principles of the general polymer system.

There is an extensive literature associated with the theory and testing of the mechanical strength or plastics, rubbers and composites. (See Appendix 2.)

The terminology of mechanical properties is vague and confusing, since it has developed to describe the results of very specific test techniques. Appendix 1 gives a glossary of definitions of most common terms.

A typical experiment consists of applying a changing force needed to maintain a constant rate of deformation of a test specimen of specific shape (cross-section and length). The fraction deformation in the direction of force is called the “strain” and the force per unit cross-sectional area is called the “stress”. In experiments where theory is not easily applied, the force and deformation are reported. Where geometry can be analyzed properly, the stress and strain are reported. Force is usually measured in Newtons (N) or kilograms-force (kgf). Deformation is reported as % change. Stress has units of Pascals (usually megapascals, MPa). Strain is dimensionless.

Tests may be performed by compressing, stretching (tension) or twisting (torsion) the specimen. For brittle materials, different strengths are obtained for each mode of testing. For ductile materials, the results from different modes are close.

Measurements of stress and strain for very small deformations allow characterization of the elastic properties of a material, chiefly the Modulus of Elasticity (compression/tension) or Rigidity (torsion).

Large deformations (more than a few %) lead to plastic behavior where the material starts to yield under stress. In this case the quantities of interest are the Maximum Stress and Strain at Maximum Stress. Most tests do not strain the material to more than 25% of its original length, because of unusually behavior occurring when the geometry undergoes large changes.

Viscoelastic and viscoplastic materials are sensitive to the strain rates used in testing: fast rates require higher stresses. As a consequence tests are done at an accepted or specified strain rate, or must be repeated at various strain rates.

Testing done on general polymers falls into three categories:

  1. ELASTIC TESTING: Done at low levels of deformation, usually by oscillatory stressing to determine dynamical properties of the modulus at various strain rates.
  2. FAILURE TESTING: Done at large levels of deformation, usually at a constant strain rate, until the specimen breaks. The reported values are Break Stress and Break Strain.
  3. MODULUS TESTING: Done at fixed levels of strain, such as 90% or 75% (greater than 75% is not recommended). The stress required to achieve this level of deformation is reported.

The dynamical Elastic Testing is normally done only in research. Failure testing is done in research, where usually the whole stress-strain curve is reported, or as an engineering test to quantify the strength at failure. Modulus testing is routinely used in quality control on polymers with important mechanical properties.

Exhibit 2 shows a typical stress-strain curve for a brittle material, such as concrete or styrofoam. Note that at a particular level of strain the material fractures suddenly and the stress required drops to zero.

Exhibit 3 shows a typical stress-strain curve for a ductile or rubbery material, such as polyurethane. Note that after a certain stress or strain occurs, the material starts to yield (become plastic) and the stress drops and appears to fail to a nearly constant value while the material creeps. Once a certain strain occurs, the material becomes harder again (all the “give” used up) and the stress increases to another maximum before the material breaks.

In both Exhibits 2 and 3 you will notice that the initial portions of the stress-strain curves are straight lines (with a slope of the Modulus): this is the Proportional Region. Before the material starts to yield in Exhibit 3, the material would return to nearly its original shape if the stress were removed: this is the Elastic Region. In the testing of rubber-like materials, it is not infrequent to find an absence of the linear Elastic Region. These materials “strain-harden” continuously to a new material whose Elastic Region is approached after noticeable elongation.

In order to specify the mechanical properties of a general plastic, it is usually sufficient to report the Modulus of Elasticity (compression), Modulus of Elasticity (tension), Modulus of Rigidity (shear) and Maximum Stress and Strain for each mode.


The importance of texture has led to a variety of measurement methods in the last three decades. They fall into the raw material and outgoing product test categories.


The dominant effect of meat salt-soluble proteins on the resulting texture of the product led in the 1960’s and 1970’s to the “Georgia Bind” test of Saffle and co-workers (see Appendix 2 for references).

This test involves the extraction of salt-soluble protein from raw meat samples in a standard way, and then determination of a relative functionality of this salt-soluble protein by an oilemulsification test. The amount of oil sustained in a blender at a particular speed for a particular (10 mg/ml) concentration of salt-soluble protein defines the functionality of that protein. Combining the two effects of % protein salt-solubility and oil-functionality gives the “Bind Constant” or “Bind Index” for the meat.

The “Bind Constants” determined are then used to formulate a product to a specified level of texture, usually specified as the average of

Bind Constant x Protein x 100 %

on a finished weight basis. The resulting “BIND” levels formulated to are typically 200 – 220 % FW for beef products, 180 – 190 for 30% beef and 30% pork products, and 170 – 180 for pork dominant products. Poultry products vary from limits set to 170 – 180 (similar to pork) for products formulated to tighter specifications, to 250+ for chicken franks that are low fat and not adjusted to maximum water content.

The “BIND” values for raw meats are seldom actually measured. Instead, the tabulated results of the Saffle workers are used, possibly adjusted for proximate analysis variations (via the QC Assistanttm of Least Cost Formulations). The presumption is that the “Bind Constants” for the actual meat lots are not too far from the tabulated values, particularly when adjusted for proximate analysis differences.

This “BIND” concept has worked fairly well in practice over the last two decades. Change of the formulated “BIND” of 10 to 15 units will usually result in a sensible change in texture. The standard deviation of measurement of the original “Bind Constants” was approximately 5 to 7%, about the same as the 10 to 15 units is to the 170 to 220 unit limit.

The principal difficulties with the “BIND” concept are:

  1. The concept is inapplicable to many fillers and binders.
  2. The test is not easily repeatable between laboratories because the methodology is sensitive to equipment used.
  3. The effects of processing are not considered and assumed constant.
  4. The effects of fat and moisture are not determinable, other than of dilution, and modern meat products have shifted from 30% fat to 10% fat and lower.

The Saffle “BIND” concept has, whatever its limits, revolutionized meat product formulation accuracy and has provided a basic solution to texture control in cooked sausage.


The few large meat companies which can afford pilot plants in their R & D facilities will usually also include a Universal Tester system (such as Instron, Chatillon or others).

These testers can perform vertical compression or tension tests at constant strain rates in a heavyduty test stand with a chuck to contain a test probe and a force gauge (of at least 1% full-scale accuracy) to measure the stress applied. The tester provide chart recorder output which indicates force vs time (which gives deformation via the constant strain rate) for the entire crosshead movement.

Because of the design of the machine and the properties of the meat samples being tested, usually a compression test is performed using either a cylindrical, flat probe of 5 to 12.5 mm diameter, or a spherical probe of 5 to 10 mm diameter. The spherical probe test with a 10 mm ball is routinely performed on all lots of surimi.

Universal Testing Machines cost from $5,000 to $20,000 or more, depending on features.

The most reliable compressive test is measurement of the peak force required to puncture the sample. As deformation occurs, the stress rises rapidly and linearly to a first maximum, then undergoes a complex pattern, followed by a second maximum and then failure. Unfortunately there is little consensus as to the shape of the probe (flat vs ball) or which point on the force vs deformation curve to use as the measurement. Some investigators report the first maximum, others the second. It appears that only the first maximum is a reliable predictor of the material properties, since the curve after initial puncture is subject to side friction. In addition, the test results are influenced by the rate of cross-head speed and the diameter of the probe used, all of which vary between investigators.

Other labs report the results of compression to a fixed deformation, such as 90% of height, 80% of height or 75% of height and sometimes even 50%. These tests are particularly difficult to reproduce, since these fixed deformations are not extrema in the force vs deformation curves but instead are on a side slope of rapid change. Consequently slight changes in mounting, deformation or material or cross-head speed may result in significantly different forces being measured.

In the best of circumstances, the precision of the measurement between replicates is 5 to 10%, chiefly due to the incomplete homogeneity of the meat product structure (4 to 6%) and its response to the compressive deformation. Tests are usually run on 5 to 10 replicates to average out within product and instrument variation.

Only the surimi industry has standardized the probe and cross-head speed for the compression test to failure: a 10 mm diameter spherical ball. No standard of any time seems to exist for this type of test in the meat industry.

Because of the inability to apply theory to the complex deformations and unknown contact surfaces involved in the vertical compression test, the results are normally reported as force and deformation rather than stress and strain. A nominal stress of doubtful validity could be obtained by dividing the flat and spherical probe forces by p r2.


A recent and increasingly popular method of meat product texture measurement is the torsional “gelometer” developed by Lanier and Hamann at North Carolina State University (see Appendix 2 for references).

This system twists a standard hourglass-shaped specimen at a constant angular rate (2.5 rpm = 15 degrees/s) until it fails. The entire stress-strain curve is available, with the maximum stress and strain reported.

The specimen is cut to a standard length (about 20 mm) and plastic plates are glued to each end.

The standard hourglass shape is obtained by chipping a specimen to shape using a special knifetoothed lathe wheel. The sample is necked to 10 mm + 0.2 mm.

The specimen in mounted in a specially modified Brookfield viscometer with a 1% full-scale accuracy digital head. The specimen is rotated by turning the top plastic plate while the bottom plate is held fixed.

This test is relatively well-designed, with the geometry of the specimen chosen to be amenable to theoretical analysis. The force and rotational deformation are easily converted to nominal stress and true strain by the application of formulas incorporating the specimen geometry, rotational speed and effect of twisting.

The stress and strain measured in the NCSU torsional gelometer are statistically independent measurables. The reproducibility of strain is about 4 to 6% standard deviation, and of stress about 5 to 10%. The stress error is inflated by the 5% typical instrument error at the 20% of fullscale encountered on meat products. From 5 to 20 replicates are usually run to average out between specimen and instrument errors.

Because of its sound theoretical basis, the NCSU gelometer is the instrument of choice for research, providing a detailed stress-strain curve for each test. It is, however, much more laborintensive than other test methods, due to milling of the specimen.

The NCSU torsional gelometer is available at a cost of about $15,000 from Drs. Lanier and Hamann (Gel Technology, Raleigh, NC).


Cooked meat products, such as frankfurters or bologna, are, as mentioned before, filled cellular plastics where a three-dimensional cross-linked protein structure encapsulates water, fat and fillers.

Time of chopping or mastication will affect final strength, due to development of active ends of severed protein molecules. In addition chopping reduces fat particle size, breaks the containing fat cell layers, and melts fat droplets allowing surface smearing to take place.

Because meat products are composed of protein macromolecules which retain some alignment of the direction of stuffing, they exhibit “anisotropy” or directionality of strength. The stress and strain to failure will in general differ longitudinally and laterally to the stuffing axis. The effect of stuffing is to pre-stress and pre-strain the product in the direction of stuffing, reducing the longitudinal strain possible and stiffening the gel.

As a product ages in the package after production, it will gradually relax the embedded strain which has been “cooked” into the gel, increasing the strain and decreasing the stress needed for failure.

Filled composites generally exhibit increased strength in compression and decreased strength in tension. Consequently it would generally be expected that adding inert or insoluble materials (and displacing moisture) will stiffen the structure to compression and lower the strain needed for failure. However both stress and strain would be lowered in tension.

As a consequence, adding such fillers not bound to the stronger protein structure would be expected to lower skin strength, where the test condition is perpendicular to the skin, resulting in failure by shear or tension. Such fillers include non-gelling proteins, fats and carbohydrates.

Since moisture functions as a plasticizer, increasing moisture content would imply increased ability to strain, and a softer product (due to displacement of non-liquid ingredients).

Strength and strain at failure will be directly related to protein content: under ideal circumstances proportional to the active protein.

The effect of moisture loss through shrinkage is twofold: a drop in the plasticizer percentage and an increase in the percentage of other materials, including protein. Consequently the strength of a “shrunk” product will be larger than that of the “unshrunk” product by at least the percentage shrink [ 1/(1-s) ], and the strain to failure lower by approximately the shrink [ 1-s ].

Fillers with high water-holding capacity will effectively de-plasticize the system, resulting in ower strains to failure and higher stresses.

The time and temperature the product is cooked at will have a modest influence on the gel strength. Product cooked to 5 C or 10 C higher temperature or for 10 minutes longer will generally gel more fully, resulting in both increased stress and strain at failure. Since the gel process is analogous to the microbiological “kill” effect of cooking (bacteria are proteins too!), it is easy to see that cooking has a natural completion, where nearly 100% conversion occurs. Therefore very short cook cycles the lowest final temperatures will exhibit the greatest sensitivity to these variables.

The effects of salt level are to shift the pH sensitivity of the proteins and stabilize functional groups to the surrounding water. Higher salt levels generally will increase strength due to greater protein mechanical extraction, greater unfolding (resulting in increased cross-linkages) and lower the gel point temperature (resulting in more complete gelling in the cook cycle).

The effects of phosphate or lactate include:

1) increase in ionic strength (salt effect),

2) increase in pH and

3) special interactions to stabilize unfolded proteins.

Skin formation is generally due only to the meat myofibrillar proteins. The higher shrink losses from the skin areas mean the structure is pre-strained and stressed. Displacement of the moisture plasticizer by any non-bonding materials will generally decrease the strain to failure, making the skin more brittle. Since the skin properties of interest are normally tensile or shear strengths, such fillers will generally also decrease the skin strength, or at best leave it unchanged.

The mechanism for meat product deformation of 100% to 150% before failure is due to the protein chain length. The long protein molecules may be visualized as springy coils which are crosslinked to neighboring coils in random patterns. When strain occurs in a specific direction, the protein molecules uncoil into a more linear conformation. This requires free space (solvated by plasticizer) and mobility to accomplish. Clearly there is only so much “uncoiling” that can occur: if pre-stretching is accomplished by volume compression due to cook shrink or by stuffing distortion, less deformation will be available during testing or eating.

The protein content of cooked meat products is usually between 10 and 20% of the composition, or a minor constituent compared to moisture and fat. Consequently the stress and strain observed for a product will increase at least linearly with protein, and quadratically for low levels of protein.

Collagen protein contracts by 10% or more upon reaching its gel-point of 60 C, and therefore has the effect of straining the entire thermoset product.

Fat generally expands by 10% or more upon melting, and therefore stresses and strains the product before complete setting has taken place. It is essential that the fat droplets be coated with a closed-cell protein structure or embedded in a strainable gel to protect the structure against fracture by fat expansion with concomitant leakage of liquid fat along these fractures to relieve the stress imposed.

It is an interesting fact that most cooked muscle foods exhibit a modulus of rigidity between 10 and 20 kPa (see Exhibit 4).

The ultimate stress needed for a particular product will change substantially with the temperature at time of test. The viscosity of the fat present will change markedly below room temperature as the fat congeals and becomes crystalline. The stress needed at 35 F may be twice that at 70 F. The ultimate stress above room temperature should drop at least linearly with increasing temperature up to the gel-point at a rate of 0.1 – 0.3% per degree C.


As mentioned in the last sections, there is a fundamental difference in the mechanical properties of interest of the skin and of the bulk product:

  1. PROCESSING: Skin properties are primarily and directly affected by processing steps such as smoke treatment, acid treatment and early cook stages. Bulk properties are, however, primarily affected only by the final cook stage.
  2. TENSION vs COMPRESSION: The skin is bitten through perpendicular to its surface, so strength in tension and shear are the quantities of interest. The bulk interior is masticated by chewing, which means that strength in compression and shear are the quantities of interest.
  3. FILLERS: Fillers, such as fats, carbohydrates, non-meat proteins, etc., generally will decrease skin strength, even though the meat protein level stays the same, but will generally increase the bulk strength, even if the moisture level is unchanged.
  4. MECHANICAL SUPPORT: Testing of specimens for skin strength involve imposition of perpendicular loads to a thin layer, drawing upon mechanical support from the product surface large distances away. On the other hand, bulk compression or shearing remains local, so long as the test probe used is small in invasive volume. As a consequence, independent measures of skin strength and bulk strength should be made.


The “+” in the above table indicates the parameter is positively highly correlated with the factor (e.g., increasing maximum stress increases hardness). A “-” indicates the parameter is negatively correlated with the factor (e.g., increasing maximum stress lowers ease-of-swallow). No entry in the table indicates no significant direct correlation.

As mentioned before, skin and bulk texture need to be considered separately. A “good” frank, for example, should have enough skin strength to provide a noticeable “snap”, but not so strong that it is difficult to bite or so that the frank “bursts” on eating. The bulk texture should be strong enough to be “chewy”, but not so strong as to appear “rubbery”. Some markets (e.g., Far East) or some products (e.g., canned Vienna sausage) may require a “mushier” product standard than North American franks.


Exhibit 5 shows an actual record the ultimate stress (as determined by the NCSU torsional gelometer) of successive batches of a frankfurter over days of production.







Binder: In a composite plastic, the continuous phase that holds together the reinforcing materials.

Break, Failure or Fracture Strength: The stress at the breakpoint.

Break, Fracture or Failure Point: The discontinuous point at which the specimen separates and the stress drops to zero rapidly.

Brittleness: The property of a material to fail under a small deformation.

Brittle materials usually behave differently under tension and compression.

Brittle materials are usually weak in tension and strong in compression.

Cell: A small cavity surrounded partially or completely by walls.

Cell, Open: A cell not totally enclosed by its walls.

Cell, Closed: A cell totally enclosed by its walls.

Colloid: A substance in an extremely fine state of subdivision dispersed in a continuous medium, where the principal properties of surfaces and interfaces play the dominant role.

Colloidal solution: A dilute colloidal dispersion of a lyophilic particles, usually molecularly dispersed and thermodynamically stable as a single-phase system.

Creep: The time change of strain under a fixed stress.

Crosslinking: The formation of a 3-dimensional polymer by means of interchain reactions resulting in changes to physical properties.

Deformation: The decrease in length from the gage length due to compressive force applied.

Dilatant: A material which hardens upon imposed shear. (Opposite of “Thixotropic”.)

Disperse phase: The discontinuous phase of a colloidal mixture.

Dispersion medium: The continuous phase of a colloidal mixture.

Ductility: The property of a material to have large plastic deformations without rupturing.

Ductile materials have almost identical tension and compression stress-strain curves.

Elasticity: The property of returning quickly and completely to initial geometry after unloading.

Elastic Limit: The greatest stress to which a material may be subjected without permanent strain resulting (i.e., the specimen recovers its original dimensions).

Elastomer: A macromolecular material that at room temperature returns rapidly to approximately its original dimensions and shape after a substantial deformation by a weak stress.

Elastoplasticity: The property of retaining partially and permanently a deformation after unloading.

Electrophoresis: The movement of particles with respect to a liquid as a result of an applied electric field.

Elongation or Extension: The increase in length from the gage length due to the force imposed.

Emulsion: A stable dispersion of one liquid in another, usually water and an oil or organic compound. Two types exists: oil-in-water (“O/W”) and water-in-oil (“W/O”), depending on which compound is the disperse and which is the continuum phase. Stability requires the presence of a third material, an “Emulsifying Agent”, which stabilizing the oil/water interface.

Fiber: A plastic which has been crystallized by “Strain Hardening” to form a greatly stronger oriented or interlocking structure longitudinally.

Filler: A sometimes inert and sometimes functional material added in the particulate solid phase to a plastic to modify its properties or lower its costs. If functional to a high degree, they are called “Reinforcing Fillers”.

Flexibility: The property of a material to have large elastic deformations without rupturing.

Foam: Gaseous dispersion (usually air) in a liquid continuum.

Gage Length: The original length of a test specimen over the portion over which the strain is being determined. For tensile or compressive tests, the height of the narrow region. For torsional tests, the circumference of the narrow region.

Gel: A two-component semi-solid system, rich in liquid (< 10% gelling component), made of a network of solid aggregates in which liquid is held. A hardened “sol”.

Gelation: The process of hardening or “setting” of a sol into a material with solid-like properties.

Gel-Point: The stage at which a liquid mass begins to exhibit pseudo-elastic behavior, the inflection point in viscosity vs time.

Glass: A product of freezing, typically hard and brittle, which has cooled to rigidity without crystallizing.

Glass Transition: The reversible change over a relatively small temperature region in amorphous polymers to a viscous or rubbery condition from a hard and brittle condition.

Glass Transition Temperature: The approximate midpoint of the temperature range over which a glass-to-rubber transition occurs. Hofmeister series: See “Lyotropic Series”.

Hydrocolloid: A material capable of forming a colloidal suspension in water.

Hydrogel: A gel formed from a material dispersed in water as a medium. Hydrophilic: A disperse phase which has a high chemical affinity for the water dispersion medium.

Hydrophobic: A disperse phase which has a low chemical affinity for the water dispersion medium.

Lyophilic: A disperse phase which has a high chemical affinity for the dispersion medium.

Lyophobic: A disperse phase which has a low chemical affinity for the dispersion medium.

Lyotropic series: A series of cations or anions in order of coagulating power (e.g., Li+ > Na+ > K+ or Cl- > Br- > I-).

Micelle: A submicroscopic aggregate of colloidal polymers usually oriented with respect to a dispersion medium (lyophilic out and lyophobic in).

Modulus of Elasticity or Elastic Modulus or Young’s Modulus: The slope of stress vs strain below the proportional limit in tensile or compressive testing.

Modulus of Rigidity: See Shear Modulus.

Necking: localized reduction in cross-section in tensile tests.

Nonrigid Plastic: A plastic which has a modulus of elasticity of 70 Megapascals or less. All cooked food gels have moduli of 1 MPa or less.

Pascal: A unit force of 1 Newton applied to a cross-sectional area of 1 square meter. 1 atmosphere of pressure is 101325 Pa or 101.325 kPa or 0.101325 MPa.

Peptization: From analogy to peptic digestion, the spontaneous dispersion of a precipitate to form a colloid.

Percentage Elongation: The elongation expressed as a percentage of gage length. Different percentage elongations will be observed at yield and at break.

Paste: A concentrated (> 10% by volume) dispersion of solid particles in a liquid continuum.

Plastic: A material that has as an essential ingredient one or more organic macromolecule, is solid in its finished state, and at some stage in processing can be shaped by flow. Rubbers, textiles, adhesives and paint are not classified as plastics.

Plasticity: The property of retaining permanently and completely a deformed shape after unloading.

Plasticizer: A substance incorporated in a material to increase its workability, flexibility or distensibility.

Plastisol: A plastic or resin dissolved in a plasticer to give a pourable liquid.

Polymer: A substance consisting of repeating units of one or more monomers.

Proportional Limit: The greatest stress for which stress vs strain is a straight line through the origin.

Purge: The syneresis of water from a meat product over time.

Rate of Straining: The change in nominal strain per unit time. Plastic materials become “stiffer” when faster deformations are required. Consequently results at different strain rates will generally differ significantly in a systematic manner. For non-rigid materials, usually 1.5 per minute (150% elongation in 1 minute or 2.5% per second).

Rate of Stressing: The change in nominal stress applied per unit time. See Rate of Straining.

Reinforced Plastic: A plastic with high-strength fillers embedded, resulting in mechanical properties enhanced over the unfilled plastic.

Rheology: The study of mechanical properties, particularly flow, ductility and plasticity, or concentrated colloidal systems.

Rubber: A material capable of recovering from large deformations quickly and forcibly. From a test point of view, a rubber will retract from 100% elongation to 50% elongation in less than 1 minute at room temperature.

Shear Modulus of Elasticity or Modulus of Rigidity: The slope of shear stress vs strain below the proportional limit in torsional testing.

Sol: The dilute (less than 1% by volume) dispersion of a lyophobic solid in a liquid or gaseous medium. The dispersion medium is usually denoted by a prefix, such as “hydrosol” (water) or “aerosol” (air).

Strain or Nominal Strain: The ratio of elongation or compressive deformation to gage length. If the specimen retains its original dimensions, the strain is 0. Note that, as with nominal stress, strain may not be meaningful if the specimen geometry is seriously distorted during test.

Strain Hardening: The process of increasing strength by elongation by strain to produce apartially crystallized fiber.

Strength, Nominal: The maximum nominal stress sustained by the specimen during the test.

Stress, Nominal: The force per unit area (N/m2 = Pascal) of minimum original cross-section. If the specimen deforms significantly under test (“yields”), necking, stretching or bulging may occur to an extent that the nominal “stress” is not a meaningful quantity.

Syneresis: The spontaneous shrinkage of a gel to form a more concentrated gel and free exuded dispersion medium.

Thermoplastic: A plastic that can be repeatedly softened and hardened by heating and cooling to and from a flow-shapable state.

Thermoset: A plastic that, after having been cured by heat or other means, is substantially infusible and insoluble.

Thixotropic: A material which has lowered viscosity on increased shear (e.g., liquefied by shaking). Notable example is quicksand, which acts liquid under force.

Toe Compensation: The correction for the initial “ramp-up” of stress required to take up equipment slack at the start of testing.

Toughness: The property of a material to withstand large deformations or stresses before failure.

True Strain: The strain corrected for known standard geometry changes necessary under test which affect length. For a tensile test, true strain is the natural logarithm of 1 plus the nominal strain (ratio of after to before length).

Ultimate Strength or Maximum Strength: The maximum stress encountered during testing.

Viscoelasticity: The property of continuously creeping under load and continuously retreating after unloading, with a return to original form after some lapse of time.

Viscoplasticity: The property of continuous creeping under load and a retention of the deformed shape after unloading.

Viscosity: The resistance to flow within the body of a material.

Work to Failure or Fracture: The integrated force through deformation or stress through strain to cause breakage or rupture of the specimen. A measure of “Toughness”.

Yield Point: The first point at which the strain increases without an increase in stress. Usually at a maximum in stress, but may also be at an inflection point in stress.

Yield Strength: The stress at the yield point.



Annual Book of ASTM Standards, Volume 8.01: Plastics, American Society for Testing and Materials, Philadelphia, PA.

Colloid Science, A.E. Alexander and P. Johnson, Oxford University Press, London, 1949.

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Meat Emulsions – A Roadmap to Investigations

This is the Index Page for all work related to MDM and Blended Ham Products.

Meat Emulsions – A Roadmap to Investigations

2 October 2020

In April this year, I decided to put everything I thought I knew about fine meat emulsions aside and to start from scratch. This was a very hard week where nothing worked the way I wanted it to work. For a large part, I was flying on autopilot, disregarding my personal extreme disappointment with the world NOT working the way I thought it must work. For several days I was in the test kitchen from first thing in the morning and was the last person to leave. What emerged at the end of the week was not an answer, but a roadmap to the answer.

I went for a run when I got home and the enormity of the breakthrough dawned on me. Let me recap what I decided in April when I embarked on this journey. I questioned everything!

What is the role of equipment? What are starch-, soya-, rinds- and fat emulsions and why create it or use it in the final meat emulsion? What exactly are TVP and the various isolates? What is a modified starch and what are the differences with native starches? What is a food gel and what characteristics are required under which conditions? What is the role of meat proteins in gelation? What is an emulsifier and what is a filler? How did these enter the meat processing world and what has been the most important advances? What is the legislative framework? What is the role of time, temperature, pH, pressure, particle size on these products in isolation and synergistically, in a complex system? What is the role of enzymes in manipulating these? What are all the possible sources of protein, starches, fillers and emulsifiers? How do we enhance taste? Firmness? etc.

The subject is clearly stated by Gravelle, et al. “Finely comminuted meat products such as frankfurter-type sausages and bologna can be described as a discrete fat phase embedded in a thermally-set protein gel network. The chopping, or comminution process is performed under saline conditions to facilitate extraction of the salt-soluble (predominantly myofibrillar) proteins. Some of these proteins associate at the surface of the fat globules, forming an interfacial protein film (IPF), thus embedding the fat droplets within the gel matrix, as well as acting to physically restrain or stabilize the droplets during the thermal gelation process. As a result, these types of products are commonly referred to as meat emulsions or meat batters.” (Gravelle, 2017) I love this concise description and in it is embedded a world of discovery and adventure.

A road-map emerged. It is different from NPD in that in this stage of the game, I assume that I know nothing. I seek to learn as much as possible through experimentation and carefully selected collaborations, done in such a way that confidentiality is not an issue. I assume that I don’t know enough and that the information I have been given over the years may not have been the most correct or complete information. I assume that if I understand the various chemicals and equipment pieces better than most people, I should be able to arrive at answers that others are not able to.

My first task was to set out the framework for investigations. The new investigative techniques that became clear to me this week will only be effective within the right philosophical framework.

Test, test and, when you had enough, test some more!

Develop a way to do rapid testing of various combinations or products in isolation. Test per certain pH, temperature, particle size, etc. Test and test and test some more. Remember to keep careful notes with photos.

Find Solace in the wisdom of the old people.

Often, the greatest food innovations emerge out of an understanding how things were done hundreds of years ago. This is the basis premise of The Earthworm Express.

List Protein Sources

Make a list of all protein sources, their protein content, fat, fiber and other characteristics. What is the state of the proteins? Denatured? Damaged? Get samples and test.

Develop Rapid Test’s

Develop rapid test techniques which are quick, inexpensive and accurately mimics processing conditions. Fed up and frustrated with the restrictive and expensive nature of the test kitchen set-up, it was the realization how to do this that was my biggest breakthrough this week.

Don’t Trust Ingredient Comp’s.

Seek advice, but remember that staff from spice companies will tell you whatever they have to tell you to sell their particular product which may or may not be what you are looking for.

Understand your Equipment

Take the time to understand the different pieces of equipment who purports to fulfill a certain function and compare the results by talking to different production managers who use these equipment pieces. Is smaller better? Heat generated? Damage to proteins?

List binders/ emulsifiers

List all possible binders/ emulsifiers / fillers and test. Get samples and test.

Record and photograph everything!

Record everything. Inclusion (dosage), pH, temperature, reaction time, processing steps. Keep meticulous photo records.

Build an international network of trusted friends

Seek out the advice of people you trust when you run into a dead end. I find it best to have such a network of collaborators across the world. Pick the right peoples brains!

There is ONE least cost formulation for every situation.

I have come to the conclusion that it is merely a matter of data manipulation to arrive at the one ultimate “least cost” solution for every product, in any particular set of circumstances.

Separate the steps and logically group chemical reactions.

Group chemical reactions together and separate steps to achieve optimal results, thus creating different emulsions to be blended together in the final step.

Index to Articles and Notes

-> Chicken Meat – Thawing, Breading, Cooking, Browning

-> Collagen Marker: Hydroxyproline

-> Counting Nitrogen Atoms – The History of Determining Total Meat Content Before we get down to business, I examine the history of the development of the concept of Total Meat Equivalent and the equations which are laid down in legislation.

-> Emulsifiers in Sausages – Introduction. Understanding the role and chemistry of non-meat emulsifiers, extenders and fillers is currently widely used in South Africa.

-> Experiential Substitutes for Chicken MDM

-> Hot Boning in America First step towards a better understanding of the binding of proteins to each other and water.

-> MDM – Not all are created equal! Starting to understand the base meat material used in fine emulsion sausages in South Africa.

-> Notes on Alginate

-> Notes on Proteins used in Fine Emulsion Sausages

-> Notes on Starch. Characteristics and composition of this often used gelling agent are discussed.

-> The Origins of Polony The origins of polony informs us a great deal in its composition.

-> Poultry MDM: Notes on Composition and Functionality Here we start our detailed consideration of chicken MDM.

-> Protein Functionality: The Bind Index and the Early History of Meat Extenders in America The first consideration is the fact that different meat sources, and different parts of the carcass, have different binding functionalities. Here I also develop the history of binders, fillers and meat extenders in America and the birth of the analog product.

-> Special Projects 3

-> Soy or Pea Protein and what in the world is TVP? Here we start to learn about the functional properties brought to the fine emulsion by soy, pea protein and TVP by first understanding exactly what they are and how they are produced.

Over the next years, I want to make this approach part of my daily routine. I am interested to work with collaborators on various aspects of the project.

Let’s build our understanding together.

Cape Town, South Africa