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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Origins of the South African Sausage, Called a Russian

Origins of the South African Sausage, Called a Russian
Eben van Tonder
November 2020 (Cape Town) (Updated 22 October 2023, Lagos, Nigeria)


I have long tried to reconstruct the history of the South African sausage delicacy called a Russian. Due to a complete lack of information, I never did. Earlier this month I decided to give it another go as an introduction to a groundbreaking article by Dr RA LaBudde on fine emulsion sausages. (Review of comminuted and cooked meat product properties from a sol, gel and polymer viewpoint) I posted a short essay on social media and immediately started receiving high-quality input.

The Russian Connection

Is the name – Russian, a reference to a Russian origin? In its composition, it is similar to the Russian Kolbasa. The Russian word kolbasa, as well as its variations in the Slavic languages (for, example kielbasa in Polish), originated in what is now Turkey. It literally means “pressed by the hand.” (Though some researchers stick to the Hebrew origin of the word – the word combination kol basar used to mean “all flesh”.)” (Russiapedia) In Slovenia, it is called a kransky and the Poles, kielbasa.

Early Russian Immigrants

One option is that it is Russians who brought it to our shores. Most Russian immigrants, were, however, Jewish and since the product in South Africa contains pork, I was sceptical.

In early Johannesburg, a large Russian community dominated the grocery trade. Cripps (2012) quotes a 1905 complaint from the Commercial and Industrial Transvaal which read: “Perhaps in no branch has the keen edge of competition reduced the retailers’ margin of profit to such a minimum as in the grocery line. This is due in a great measure to the number of Celestials, Greeks and Russians who have got a hold of the Transvaal trade, and whose nominal expenses and cost of living enable them to curtail the ordinary profits.”

Cripps (2012) writes that “the 1896 Census showed a total of 102,078 inhabitants in Johannesburg… Of these 50,907 were Europeans or whites, 952 Malays, 11 4,807 Asiatics, 12 2,879 mixed or other races, and 42,533 ‘natives.” Of the 24,489 whites who had been born in Europe, 12,389 were from England and Wales, 3,335 “ Russia, 2,879 “ Scotland, 2,262 “ Germany, 997 “ Ireland, 819 “ Holland, 402 “ France, 311 “ Sweden & Norway, 206 “ Italy, 139 “ Switzerland and 750 Others. (Cripps, 2012) Apart from a direct reference to their involvement in dominating the grocery trade, it also means that Russians were the second largest group of white foreigners in Johannesburg.

Cripps (2012) shows how each nationality was eager to develop and sell their traditional food and even though she does not mention Russians (the sausage), one can be certain that Russian immigrants sold their sausages, kolbasa or another variety, to the general public.

An Anglo-Boer War Russian Connection?

We know that Russians fought in the ABW on the side of the Boers. Could they have brought the tradition over? Leaving the exact definition of who these Russians would have been aside for a moment, one wonders where they got the equipment to produce it but at that time, people were capable of producing complex meat formulations in their kitchen before breakfast (as is still the case in rural households across Russia, East and Central Europe). Several prominent ethnic Russians joined the Russian effort and it could have been produced for them during the campaign under instruction by wealthy fellow Russians.

Davidson and Filatova, in their book, The Russians and the Anglo-Boer War, 1899-1902, mention several such high-ranking Russian aristocrats and leaders who participated in the war. One such person was the Georgian Prince Nikolai Bagration, a descendant of Marshal Bagration who had fought against Napoleon, who was a well-connected aristocrat who once represented Georgia at the Tsar’s coronation. He was nicknamed, Niko the Boer. Others were people like Prince Mikhail Yengalychev, Ivan Zabolotny and Alexander Essen. “Zabolotny became a leader of the Trudoviks and a member of the First Duma. Essen was already a member of the Social Democrats when he arrived in Pretoria and was to play an active role in the 1905 Revolution – his underground alias was ‘the Boer’. He went on to become a leading Bolshevik and in the Twenties was appointed deputy chairman of the Russian State Planning Committee.” (quoted from an online review of Davidson and Filatova)

A few hundred Russian volunteers participated, and it is likely that they prepared Kolbasa for their own consumption and even for Boer commandos whom they fought alongside. In further support of the possibility that they produced during the campaign, there is photographic evidence of meat grinders being available and used in the field by the British and therefore possibly the Russians (see under “Meat of War” in The Boers (Our Lives and Wars). If the Russians shared their kolbasa with the Boers, it would have cemented the reputation of the Russian sausage and would have endured it to the Boers.

Hans de Kramer, however, correctly pointed out that “very few of the 200 or so Russians who fought with the Boers in the ABW came directly from Russia. They were Jewish rather than ethnic Russians who had come to the ZAR by the thousands since the middle of the 1890s. In the Boer War, the neutral Russians (they were mainly neutral but about 3000 joined the British army) suffered with the Boers during the British scorched earth phase because many of their shops were on farmland owned by Boers and their shops were burned down because they were suspected of supplying the Boers during the guerilla phase. After the war the Russian Jewish shopkeepers claimed compensation from the British for burning down their shops, saying that they did not supply the Boers but that the Boers just arrived at their shops and commandeered food and other goods which they supplied out of fear. They described themselves as general dealers and storekeepers who were dairymen, BUTCHERS, tailors, hawkers, booksellers, a blacksmith, a printer, a hairdresser and a handful of farmers.” It seems that the numbers of Russians were so small that one wonders if they had a particular effect during the war on the creation of such a culinary tradition.

Could the Original Sausage have been Kishka?

It is clear that there were not enough ethnic Russians in South Africa for the original sausage to have been Kalbasa (assuming that Kalbasa always contained pork). If the original sausage was Kishka and not Kilbasa, everything would fit because we know that Kishka is a well-known Jewish sausage, containing offal. Kishke is Slavic in origin and means “gut” or intestines. This is also made across Eastern Europe and every country calls it by its own unique name.

There is a strong tie between a Kalbasa and a Jewish origin as we saw from the origins of the word. “Some researchers stick to the Hebrew origin of the word – the word combination kol basar used to mean “all flesh”) (Russiapedia) There are historical records of Kosher butchers making Kalbasa.

The Russian is not just like the Kolbasa, but also other Central and East European sausages. The Australian, Vic Nicholas, with his strong South African ties, pointed out that the South African Russian is very similar to the Slovenian Kransky (Krainer in German). East European and Russian peoples all made a similar, very basic sausage referred to by various names. A similar sausage is found in Germany, Slovenia, Hungary, Poland and Slovenia’s neighbour, Croatia who probably took their version of the same basic sausage to Australia where it is called a Kransky. Different peoples, therefore, made a similar sausage and called it by different names and it would be natural for the Jewish butchers to have done the same and simply omitted the non-Kosher components such as the blood and pork.

Kishka or kishke remains a good contender. For starters, I know that Russians are very similar to polony in terms of its ingredients and polony definitely included offal in its initial recipe (The Origins of Polony). Kishke is a sausage stuffed with intestines and made from a combination of meat and grain. The fact that it contained grain, often soy, makes Kishka very similar to a South African Russian than most people may realise, as the traditional South African sausage contains a combination of meat and soy. What grain would have been used in Johannesburg in those early days to add to the sausage is an interesting question as soy only became popular following WW2. That it contains both meat and grain or legumes today is certain. Even if it did contain legumes early on in South Africa, the fact that it does so today has more to do with the economic imperative to make expensive meat affordable than any historical reason. If grain was used earlier with the meat, it would have “opened the door”, so to speak for a later inclusion of soy.

Jewish-Russian Immigrants

Even though I could not find any reference to the Russian sausage and its consumption during the Anglo-Boer war or on the mines in the Transvaal, Hans de Kramer claims to have “seen a source stating that the Boers developed a taste for Russian sausages through obtaining them from the Jewish Russians during the ABWII.” Most interestingly, he also states that “Russian sausages were popular in Johannesburg amongst the very cosmopolitan mining community since a decade before ABWII.” I have learned to trust statements like these on cultural matters where there would be no reason one way or the other to embellish and I take Hans completely at his word. This is, after all, the nature of recording tradition.

Jewish Russian shopkeepers stocked Russian sausages and sold them to the Boers during the ABW and on the Johannesburg Reef to the mine camps. The existence of these camps was at the heart of the development of an enormous meat trade in Johannesburg.

Reaching Far and Wide

Not just the Russians, but the people from the Balkans and Eastern Europe (such as Germany, Slovenia, Hungary, Poland and Slovenians) specialised in it and it was the Russians and East Europeans who brought this technology to America following World War One. There are records in Russia of even kolbasa being produced with fillers and extenders due to meat shortages in Russia (Russiaperia).

People from the Russian steppe and surrounding regions pioneered the use of meat extenders and supplements as emulsifiers and fillers which probably developed from their millennia-old soup technology. Fine emulsion sausages became important in America, after the war during severe meat shortages. In central Africa, the same sausage sold in South Africa as a Russian is called a Hungarian after the people who brought them the technology. They produce it minus the showpieces, but omitting these may be a later adaptation. see my article on this subject, “Protein Functionality, the Bind Index and the Early History of Meat Extenders in America.”

The Lituanian Revelation

From the website: Taste of Artisan.

In 2023, two papers I did had a huge impact on my thinking about the Russian sausages. One is “The Gluckman Project” where I trace the immigration from Lithuania to South Africa of the brothers Maurice and Nathan Gluckman and the other is the creation of a Jewish newspaper in Johannesburg, also by a Lithuanian immigrant, Ben-Zion S. Hersch, “The Jewish Standard.” This importantly introduced me to the largest of all Russian groups to have ever immigrated to South Africa namely Lithuanian Jews.

Lithuania was for some time part of the Russian Empire. Russian domination of Lithuania goes back to the 1700s. The Third Partition of Poland, also known as the Third Partition of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, took place in 1795. As a result of this partition, the territory of Lithuania, along with much of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, was divided among Russia, Prussia, and Austria. The eastern part of Lithuania, including Vilnius, came under Russian control.

Lithuania remained under Russian control for over a century, during which it was part of the Russian Empire. On February 16, 1918, Lithuania declared its independence from Russia and established the Republic of Lithuania. This declaration marked the end of its formal association with the Russian Empire. It is therefore likely that the sausage was introduced by Lithuanian Jews (or one of the other Jewish ethnic groups from under the Russian Empire) and that the immigrants were generally referred to as “Russians”.

There is a major flaw with this theory namely that during the period when Lithuania was part of the Russian Empire (1795-1918), the Lithuanian population was generally not referred to as “Russians” by the outside world. The people of Lithuania, including ethnic Lithuanians, retained their distinct cultural and national identities, despite being subjects of the Russian Empire. This was true of other countries incorporated in the Russian empire.

It did, however, give me a specific direction to search for the sausage. Amongst Lithuanian Sausage I discovered an excellent contender called a Kiełbasa Litewska. It has all the main ingredients for a Russian including showpieces. I will give the following recipe I found on Meat and Sausages.

Pork, semi-fat200 g0.44 lb
Beef, semi-fat300 g0.66 lb
Hard fat trimmings200 g0.44 lb
Meat trimmings*300 g0.66 lb
Ingredients per 1000g (1 kg) of meat
Salt20 g3-1/3 tsp
Cure # 12.5 g1/2 tsp
Pepper1.0 g1/2 tsp
Paprika1.0 g1 tsp
Allspice0.5 g1/4 tsp
Garlic3.0 g1 clove
From Meat and Sausages

Ground allspice berries are allspice, but a mix often includes cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and ginger. In South Africa, we will add cardamon, cumin, marjoram and onion powder.

How the sausage is made is the interesting bit. Notice the use of fat as “show pieces.” This is exactly how a Russian sausage is made in South Africa.


  1. Grind pork with 3/8” (8 mm) plate. Grind fat trimmings with 3/8” (8 mm) plate. Grind beef with 1/8” (3 mm) plate. Grind meat trimmings with 1/8” (3 mm) plate.
  2. Emulsify ground beef and meat trimmings adding 20% (120 ml, 4 oz fl) crushed ice or cold water. Add salt, cure and spices during this step.
  3. Mix ground pork, ground fat and emulsified meats together.
  4. Stuff into 32 mm hog casings. Form 25-28 cm (10-11”) links and divide into pairs.
  5. Hang for 12 hours at 2-6° C (35-43° F) OR for 1-2 hours at room temperature.
  6. Apply hot smoke at 55-60° C (130-140° F) for 80-100 min until light brown color is obtained.
  7. Cook sausages: in water at 72-75° C (161-167° F) for 25-35 min until meat reaches 68-70° C (154-158° F) internal temperature.
  8. Cool in water. Refrigerate.
  9. OR: bake in smokehouse. In the last stage of smoking increase temperature to 75-90° C (167-194° F) for about 30 minutes until sausages reach 68-70° C (154-158° F) internal temperature. Cool in air to 18°C (64°F) or lower. Refrigerate.
  10. To make a semi-dry sausages add the following steps: sausages cooked in water are submitted to a secondary smoking: with cold smoke (18° C, 64° F) for 12 hours OR with warm smoke (24-32°C, 75-90° F) for 6 hours.
  11. Dry sausages (baked or cooked) at 12-18°C (53-64°F), 75-80% humidity for 2-3 days until sample sausages achieve 86% yield. If mold appears wipe it off.

Notes: *meat trimmings: hearts, tongues, beef head meat, pork head meat.
(From Meat and Sausages)

As a contender for the Russian sausage as we know it in South Africa, Kishka or kishke may have influenced it, but the inclusion of serials and grains before soy isolated proteins were available would have given the sausage a “mushy” texture as less protein meant less gel formation and less hardness. The Lithuanian Kiełbasa Litewska is a far better contender with nice firmness and a snap (Knakt) when it is bitten into or bent over till it breaks. In this regard, there is little difference between the Polish Kielbasa and the Lithuanian Kiełbasa Litewska. The main differences relate to the spices used.

An excellent article appears in Taste of ArtisanVictor, the creator of the website did an amazing job of giving the background to a smoked version of the Kielbasa, the Kielbasa Lisiecka which is, what the Lithuanian sausage will look like related to texture and show pieces.

We have not answered two key questions. One relates to the use of pork for a sausage sold by Jewish shopkeepers and clarity relates to the name, a russian! Let’s first consider pork.

Why Pork?

It is easy to say that pork was cheaper than beef (as was and is the case) in South Africa and that the Jewish shopkeepers put their religious objections aside in favour of monetary gain. A notable example of a prominent Orthodox Jew in the pork trade was none other than Aron Vecht was arguably the largest meat curer to have existed. I have written extensively about him. From my book on meat curing, Bacon & the Art of Living:

The problem with this view is that of all the places on earth where the strictest interpretation of the religious documents of the Jewish faith was applied, Lithuania was right at the top of this list. I cannot imagine that they would have set gain before principal. Money above faith was never an option!

A British author recently pointed out to me that a kosher butcher producing pork products was frowned upon in the Jewish community. Apparently, it was frowned upon but allowed if the Jewish butcher did his pork production from a different factory/ site. Vecht would fall in this category as he had dedicated pork production sites around the globe.

In terms of structure, this discussion may get us closer to Kielbasa as the original inspiration, but still, the name is an enigma.

While I was researching the Lithuanian Jewish population, the development of Zionism, and the immigration of the Gluckman brothers and Hersch to South Africa, a thought occurred. It would warrant a separate article, but I summarise the result of my investigation here.

One of the key driving forces behind the development of Zionism was the persecution of the Jews. In the entire world, in the 1800s and early 1900s there was probably no place where anti-Semitism was more severe and led to more misery at an unimaginable scale as in the Russian Empire. I wonder if the creative Lithuanians and other Jewish immigrants (actually, refugees) from the Russian Empire, when they had to come up with a name for their sausages, originally made from offal and meat scraps did not think that “Russian” was an appropriate name for the sausage to deride, express contempt and scorn towards the Russians.

This could even cover the inclusion of pork in this dish. We know that the name, “Russian” in all likelihood does not refer to the country where the sausages originated. Why not call it a Lithuanian or a Polish? This is, however, exactly my point. Contained in the russian sausage may be the story of the Jewish people and how they were treated around the world for millennia and in the Russian Empire in particular.

Today, in South Africa, Russians are made from the best quality meat and linking any nation to the sausage would be something to be proud of, but back then it was the intestines and meat scraps. The historical context opens an interesting possibility.

A point must be made about the almost complete silence from history related to the naming of the sausage. Despite extensive searches I have made myself and professional researchers, we can find almost no information to shed light on the topic in the historical records. This is not unheard of, but the silence is enough to strike one as odd. If what I propose here is true, it would explain why nobody was prepared to put pen to paper and write this down. Even more, if it were produced with pork, even from a different factory, it would make sense why nobody was talking about it and telling the story.

Best Not To Be Dogmatic

It is the Russian Mater Butcher and acclaimed chef, Petr Pakhomov, who taught me not to be too dogmatic when it comes to sausage recipes. Different regions and countries used their own creativity to give their own interpretation of the sausage and used as ingredients whatever was available and allowed in their community to be used. Petr is a great example of a man who continues to re-interpret tradition by coming up with new and creative ideas all the time. (Review of comminuted and cooked meat product properties from a sol, gel and polymer viewpoint)


The original sausage in South Africa, introduced by Russian immigrants, almost exclusively Jewish, could even back then have been made with soy and other gains included as was the tradition at some point in history. It certainly is the case today. The most widely used recipe in South Africa today contains almost exclusively chicken, pork or beef trim, some soy and a bit of starch, filled into either a hog casing or into a sheep or beef casing if religious rules preclude the use of pork. Some butchers may add some cooked pork rind to give flavour and body. It is always cooked by the butcher to at least 69 deg C and most butchers smoke it. In recent years, some butchers have opted for beef collagen casings but this remains challenging when you deep fry the Russian as is often done.

Russians Sausages – its history, naming and composition are remarkable!

Further Reading

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


Cripps, E. A. 2012. Provisioning Johannesburg, 1886 – 1906. Unisa,originally%20made%20of%20animal%20intestines.&text=The%20Russian%20word%20kolbasa%20as,in%20what%20is%20now%20Turkey

Davidson and Filatova, in their book, The Russians and the Anglo-Boer War, 1899-1902. Also, see the online review of Davidson and Filatova.

Mavor, J. 1914. An Economic History of Russia.

Mendelsohn, R. 2019. Uprooted and uncompensated: the mistreatment of ‘Russian’ Jews by Perfidious Albion during and after the Anglo-Boer war

Russia’s Footprint on Africa

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.



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