A new beef value-adding technology based on a novel rapid chill treatment of hot-boned raw material is delivering a suite of product quality, shelf-life and other advantages for its developers.
The Nu-Meat project involves Sydney-based value-adding company, Beak & Johnston, which came up with the concept and started progressing it three years ago, with support from the Meat & Livestock Australia donor company.
The project development was delivered a solid financial start when it received a $100,000 Woolworths Fresh Food Grant in December 2010. The support, chosen directly by the Woolworths managing director, seeks-out annually a project which displays qualities including innovation and sustainability.
While much of the technology behind the Nu-Meat process is still undergoing intellectual property patent protection, meaning it cannot be discussed in detail here, it has obvious potential to add considerable value to lower-quality beef cuts, bringing more dollars-per kilogram back into the supply chain.
The process delivers significant improvement in a range of areas, including:
- better shelf-life (less than half the amount of preservatives used than in conventional sausages)
- improved colour, flavour and texture, and
- greater natural binding capacity (sausages are 90pc beef, with no need for added binders/fillers).
Any freeze/thaw process does not deliver any appreciable drop in quality.
MLA’s manager of innovation capability, Rod Coogan said the process delivered a much better flavour profile – very meaty, and good flavour preservation, as well as better particle size and appearance, and no ‘pasty’ look that can occur with some sausages.
“The big advantage is it retains the inherent characteristics of the meat and maintains that right through to the marketplace,” he said.
The result is a raw material for use – initially at least – in ground beef products like sausages and burgers which performs substantially better than conventional material.
Dr Coogan said the retail products employing raw material produced under the new technology had been sold in 600 Woolworths stores across the Eastern seaboard over the past year, and had made a successful impact on consumers, attracting a considerable premium over conventional sausages.
The product brand story makes strong references to low-use of preservatives, no artificial colours, gluten or MSG, and other attributes. Sales have been described as ‘strong, and above expectations.’
“Woolworths has been very, very happy with the result,” said B&J’s David Beak.
Beef patties based on the Nu-Meat process would be launched in the next few weeks, promising to deliver similar advantage as the sausage range, Mr Beak said.
“Certainly there are other products that we would like to develop using the technology, that we think can be equally successful,” he said.
The original sausage products are also now going into outlets other than Woolworths, which had a year’s exclusivity on the Mr Beak’s sausage range.
Raw material for the project is currently being sourced from Throsby’s hot-boning plant in Singleton, NSW, where the Nu-Meat value-adding process is applied on-site. It is conceivable that at some future time, a number of hot-boning plants across Australia could host a facility that allows Nu-Meat to be produced, Mr Beak said.
There was also considerable potential to apply the technology in servicing export markets, as well as in the domestic trade, he said. This could extend into full value-added products produced in Australia, and exported overseas into the US and elsewhere.
The main motivation for the MLA donor company getting involved in the project was to create opportunities for better carcase utilisation and value-adding, Dr Coogan said.
“Any time we can take lower-grade, lower quality cuts and utilise them in a higher-quality, higher priced item is of value to the broader industry, by building demand,” he said.
Dr Coogan said he was not aware of any similar technologies in use either in beef or other species overseas.