Adding natural red color to meat and poultry

by Donna Berry
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fresh ground meat
What consumers see may impact their expectations about the taste of a food item. (photo: Kemin)
 
Food loss and waste are growing concerns around the world. Visually unappealing meat and poultry—though safe—is a significant contribution to this issue. Natural ingredients that influence “fresh” red color may reduce waste.

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations estimates that about one third of the food produced globally for human consumption—approximately 1.3 billion tons every year—is lost or wasted. Accidental or intentional, this discard at both the retail and consumer levels has far-reaching social, economic and environmental ramifications. In the meat and poultry industries, loss can occur when product loses visual appeal, with or without microbial spoilage.

“Humans are visually oriented,” says Herbert Stone, spokesperson and past-president, Institute of Food Technologists (IFT), Chicago, and an authority on sensory science based in Menlo Park, California. “What we see directly impacts our expectations about the taste of that product.

red powder
There are a number of natural ingredients that can assist with red color management in meat and poultry products. (photo: Essentia)
 

With many meat and poultry products—fresh and cooked—red color, in varying degrees, influences consumer acceptability. There are a number of ingredients that can assist with red color management.

One is acerola cherry extract, which comes from the namesake wild plant grown in tropical and subtropical regions. Acerola extract, often combined with other plant extracts such as rosemary and green tea extract—both recognized as possessing antioxidant properties--may delay both lipid and myoglobin oxidation. This in turn delays the onset of color loss and maintains desirable color and quality in meat and poultry products.

Another ingredient option is a natural micro-granulated meat pigment derived from pork blood. This pigment intensifies coloring and improves the perception of lean meat. Because it is an ingredient derived from meat and it is going back into meat, depending on the application and the country’s regulations, it may not require declaration as a food colorant.

Tomato lycopene extract is yet another option. It is allowed as a colorant in ready-to-eat (RTE) meat products and can effectively replace FD&C Red #40 and carmine in a wide assortment of deli meats, sausages and hot dogs.

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