How ICL Food Specialties partnered with a client to enhance meat texture

Over the years, stuffing casings have been used in multiple facets of the meat industry and have undergone a tremendous evolution. The stuffing process began with the hand-held filling horn via the hand-crank operated piston filler. It has since evolved to the continuously operating vacuum stuffer.

Whether it is used to place meat products in edible or non-edible casings, stuffing has become a mostly automated process. Co-extrusion puts a new edge to the stuffing of mainly small caliber sausages and hot dogs. In co-extrusion, the classical casing is replaced by a collagen-based slurry, which is pumped simultaneously over the sausage mass as it leaves the extrusion horn. In the following step, the liquefied collagen is set in a saline bath thus forming a cohesive stable (edible) film around the sausage.

While the tooling configuration of the co-extruding nozzles and their operating timing created challenges for the mechanical engineer, the sausage maker has to consider careful reformulating as well. The correct meat batter texture plays another essential role in this process. Composition and fine-tuning of functional ingredients are vital.

Gerhard Wolf, senior account manager and technical meat processing expert for ICL Food Specialties, says he helps clients solve a variety of issues present in the meat industry. ICL Food Specialties’ knowledge and expertise, combined with product technology, helps them find cost-effective solutions for customers’ functionality challenges.

As is the case with most research, this process started in the lab. ICL Food Specialties and the client gathered their research and development teams to brainstorm how to solve the texture issue.

“We ran multiple different tests in our lab and pilot plant to determine what ingredient combination would solve the problem,” Wolf says. “In order to solve the issues, we had to focus on getting the correct additive blend together. It took about 20 different combinations to find the right solution. In the end, we improved the texture of the raw meat batter and the extrusion process.”

The final outcome was an enhanced meat texture. The meat was able to move through the pumping system more easily, while at the same time allowing the co-extruded collagen slurry to solidify in order to keep its sausage shape. Wolf says product research and advancements in ingredient functionality will lead to expansion of the extrusion process.

“The co-extrusion process is currently used widely in the production of hot dogs and sausages,” Wolf says. “In the future, I think you’ll see it used for more items, particularly snacks. Convenient, on-the-go snacks and specialty pet treats.”