Anyone not sure about the consumer clamor for clean labels can check out retail meat cases and restaurant menus to see how meat and poultry processors, prepared foods companies and operators are going to great lengths to appeal to those who embrace simpler food, whether it’s an all-natural chicken breast, a prepared meal with less than 10 ingredients or a value-added pork tenderloin in a marinade with “recognizable” ingredients, to name just a few examples. (See "Clean and (not so) simple" from the February edition of Meat&Poultry)

Certainly, the marketplace today is markedly different than a decade ago, with visually clean labels (featuring bold colors and simple designs) and labels that are clean from a composition standpoint. That’s evident in fresh meat case in value-added items as well as the deli case and frozen entrée section. Even products with long labels often include explanatory statements for some ingredients, like “added for freshness” or “to prevent caking.”

Ingredient companies are helping meat and poultry processors in their efforts to provide clean products and communicate the attributes of those products to buyers. Purac, for instance, has continually updated its portfolio, including recent launches in its PuraQ Verdad line.

“We have produced highly effective antimicrobials that can be labeled merely as ‘cultured sugar, vinegar’ in place of a more traditional label of ‘sodium lactate, sodium diacetate,’ says David Meggs, business development director, adding that extensive application work has been done to make sure those ferments perform at a high level from a food safety and shelf-life extension standpoint.

Meanwhile, Bindmax Proteins has developed a range of clean label meat and poultry ingredients, including phosphate replacers, non-allergen binders, reduced sodium binders, clean label binders and natural cure systems. In addition,
Bindmax Proteins provides processors with teleconference seminars on ways to use ingredients to formulate clean label products and suggest how to find a market niche for them, according to Rick Cassidy, vice president of product development.