Meatbased Snacks

Meat snack sales have grown steadily through the 1980s and now account for roughly 5% of the salted snack market. Major constituents of the segment are beef sticks, beef jerky, and popped pork skins.

Popped Pork Skins

Popped pork skins are produced from diced, rendered green pork skins. After a hot brine dip, skins are drained, cooled and diced into 0.5-1-in. pieces. Diced skins must be rendered, to remove fat and moisture. Skins are rendered by heating at 230-240°F in oil or lard that contains antioxidants and antifoaming agents (17). After 4 h or so of rendering, the diced pellets rise and are removed. Following cooling and draining the pellets are fried at 400-425°F to create a puffed product.

Jerky

Jerky probably has its origins with native Americans who simply stripped or jerked the muscle from game animals and dried it slowly in the wind or sun or over smoky fires. This has evolved to a process where beef is marinated, optionally smoked, and carefully dried. Restructured jerkys, made from ground meat, are gaining in popularity owing to ease of manufacture. Ground meat is mixed with curing aids, seasonings such as pepper and garlic, sugar, salt, dextrose, sodium nitrite and sodium erythorbate and extruded or formed into thin strips. Formed strips, which may be frozen are cured and dried for approximately 12 h at 150°F (18).

Beef Sticks

Beef sticks and other related meat stick products such as snack-size pepperoni are classified as fermented sausages. However, some meat snack sticks are acidulated, often with glucose-<5-lactone to achieve the desired pH and sharp taste. Chilled meat (32-34°F) is ground or chopped with a silent cutter into coarse pieces. Salt, spices, flavorings, curing salts and a fermentable carbohydrate such as dextrose is blended in along with a lactic acid starter culture, or Aw acidulant. In preparing fermented sausages it is crucial to control the amount of carbohydrate and the distribution of the starter culture (19). Good distribution ensures uniformity, whereas the amount of dextrose dictates the final pH. After stuffing, the sausages ferment at temperatures that range from 65 to 120°F but typically 90 to 110°F depending on the culture. Sausages can be stuffed into strippable cellulose casings or coextruded into reconstituted collagen. The end of fermentation is signaled by achievement of the final desired pH, eg, 4.8. Following fermentation, which may include smoking, the sticks are dried. Drying temperatures vary considerably. However, sausages that contain pork must reach an internal temperature of 137°F to destroy trichinae parasites (19).

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