Joe Cordray, professor of animal science at Iowa State University
Prof. Joe Cordray offers tips on making sausage.

CHICAGO – Joe Cordray, professor of animal science at Iowa State Univ., is well known in the circle of sausage. So who better than him to wax on the “Manufacture of Fresh Sausages” at PROCESS EXPO held at the McCormick Place this week? Cordray spoke Wednesday and Thursday on the topic, hitting on vital components of the process.

Cordray said that the optimum fat content of raw fresh pork sausage is 36 to 38 percent in chubs and patties. But he suggested making the fat content a little leaner in links, 30 to 31 percent, to achieve a better-looking raw product.

“Appearance is really important…by making that product a little leaner you get really nice particle definition and a nice pink color,” Cordray said.

Cordray discussed non-meat ingredients in fresh sausage, including sweetener, where processors have a choice of adding sugar, dextrose and corn syrup.

“The sweetener not only influences the flavor of a sausage patty, it influences the cooking performance of that patty,” he pointed out.

For instance, a retailer may tell a processor that although the processor’s patty’s tastes good, the retailer wished that the patty had a more golden color on the outside after cooking. That can be achieved by adjusting the formulation in the patty, specifically using dextrose or corn syrup rather than sugar.

Another non-meat ingredient, water, can also impact processing. Water must be of high quality, Cordray said.

“I’ve seen situations where fresh sausage doesn’t keep its bright color very long and turns gray,” he added.

In such cases, the processors manufacturing that sausage were located in country settings and surrounded by cornfields, which were heavily fertilized with nitrogen. Low levels of nitrogen – about 6 parts per million – ended up in the water, which is enough to cause the grayness.

The situation can also occur with sausage processors that use city water. A heavy rain can cause runoff which can cause higher nitrite levels in the water, which can also cause grayness.

“To avoid this, some processors just add distilled water,” Cordray said.

He specified that the low levels are not enough to harm product.

Cordray stressed that mixing time is “critical” in fresh sausage processing. He advised processors to mix long enough to achieve good distribution of the fat and lean, and good distribution of the non-meat ingredients. Overmixing can result in a product that has poor particle definition and a rubbery texture, Cordray added.

“What is the No. 1 way to achieve repeat sales? Consistent product,” Cordray said, affirming the need for proper mixing.