We evaluate and optimise desirable characteristics in New Zealand meat products and use novel microbes to do the work of unwelcome additives.

Meat and microbes

Fermented meats are produced in many countries. The salami format is common, as is whole leg muscle turned into ham. Diverse flavours and textures reflect regional differences in ingredients, climate conditions (temperature, humidity, airflow, storage) and environmental micro-organisms. 

Managing the microbiome is key to determining the characteristics of products. Our researchers and industry partners are interested in how indigenous and commercialised strains of microbes can be used to acidify better, generate novel flavour compounds, provide stronger defence against pathogens, and be biological substitutes for chemical additives. 

Meat fermentation at mini-scale

The traditional stages of meat preservation are slow and not easily amenable to innovation. Trial and error experimentation at the butchery requires hands-on time and expensive raw materials.  

Our ‘mini-scale’ method is nimble and quickly tests meat ingredients and studies new microbial strains. It simplifies formulation and provides well-controlled conditions for speed, accuracy and reproducibility. At its most basic, the system uses a 24-well plastic culture plate with each well containing 1.5 g of homogenous meat paste or batter. The paste contains adjuncts typical of salami-making.  

Pilot-scale product development

We are making use of the latest addition to the New Zealand Food Innovation Network (NZFIN), our new Food Pilot Plant located in Te Ohu Rangahau Kai on the Massey University Campus, Palmerston North.

Meat-focused operations at the plant were kicked off in 2021 to produce new food-grade products suitable for sensory and consumer work as part of the New Zealand Charcuterie Culture – Fine Food Manufacturing from Grass-fed Red Meats Project(external link)

Fermenting meat is a careful and highly controlled process, due to microbiological risks and the long durations of exposure to the environment (three weeks up to a few months). Our skilled team brings experience and knowledge ranging from meat science to regulatory affairs. These pilot plant foods are safe and edible, so there is always keen anticipation to taste the fruits of our labours.  

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