We've all probably sat down to a meal with someone who showers their food with a layer of salt before they even taste it. While that is up to individual tastes, many food manufacturers are working hard to reduce salt and other ingredients in their products.
Minnesota's meat processors are striving to meet consumer desire for products made with more natural or even fewer ingredients - also known as having cleaner labels. Because excess sodium has been linked to such health concerns as hypertension, stroke and kidney disease, it is one of the ingredients health-conscious consumers target first.
The challenge with reducing sodium in processed meat products is that it does more than just provide saltiness. Salt enhances flavors, helps extend shelf life and creates a bind between proteins so the product holds together. Reducing sodium in meat products sometimes is a detriment to the quality and taste of products consumers have come to expect.
Consumers may want the reduced salt but be disappointed in how the products taste and feel because there's less salt.
Meat processors are changing their formulations to meet consumer tastes by using such items as sodium replacers, flavor enhancers or by reducing the amount of salt in recipes.
To do so without negatively affecting the quality or the taste of the meat product presents a challenge. More and more food ingredient suppliers are offering lower sodium spice blends or alternative ingredients to help processors make the kind of items consumers want.
University of Minnesota Extension Meat Specialist Ryan Cox and I presented information on reduced sodium meat formulations at the recent Minnesota Association of Meat Processors convention. More information and alternative reduced sodium formulations will be tested at a value added meat processing seminar in August.
AURI operates a meat processing laboratory in Marshall designed to help the state's meat processors develop and test new products. For more information on what we do, visit www.auri.org or call us at 507-537-7440.