NATICK, Mass. — A researcher for the US Army Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center (NSRDEC) wants to develop more good-tasting and nutritious foods for soldiers, and bacon is at the top of his list. 

Tom Yang, US Army Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center (NSRDEC)
Tom Yang, food technologist, NSRDEC

The NSRDEC is part of the US Army Research, Development and Engineering Command. Tom Yang, Ph.D., a food technologist in the Combat Feeding Directorate at NSRDEC, is working on healthier forms of bacon and jerky made from turkey.

Yang has been experimenting with osmotic meat technology, which was originally developed in France, to develop the new turkey bacon and jerky products that taste great but are much lower in salt and fat. The technology is energy efficient and inexpensive, Yang said in a press release. It utilizes a principle called osmosis that results in semi-dried meat that is moist and less salty.

During processing, the meat is ground and made into a paste. It is then extruded onto a sheet, sandwiched between two layers of paper and put through a conveyor.

“The conveyor will take the sheet into an osmotic tank, which contains a high concentration of non-sugar solution,” Yang explained. “Ninety-two to 95 percent of moisture will migrate from the meat into the solution. The whole process takes place at refrigeration temperature so any heat-sensitive nutrients will not be destroyed.”

Yang’s recipes add omega-3s and use lean, turkey breast. The osmotic turkey version of bacon allows all soldiers to enjoy bacon anywhere in the world because it does not contain pork.

“You could also use it as a wrap by wrapping it around vegetables,” Yang said. “This type of wrap would have a lot of protein as opposed to carbohydrates. And because the meat is lean, it is not greasy at all. It is a very healthy alternative. Soldiers need more protein as opposed to carbohydrates.”

Yang said his mission is to know that soldiers are well-fed and well-nourished because they risk their lives to protect the public.

“To see soldiers eat and like something that you have developed and see that it improves their morale and helps them perform their mission better – I think that is the most fulfilling my job as a researcher can get,” Yang said.