Benefits to yield enhancement extend to color retention and food safety. 
Yield enhancement refers to the binding of moisture – natural juices or added water – in meat and poultry to increase the weight of the product, and thus saleable volume. However, as with many technologies, ingredients used for yield enhancement often provide extra benefits.

The primary bonus is extra moisture translating to a juicier, more succulent protein. Some ingredients assist with color retention while others retard lipid oxidation. Still others provide food safety benefits. Yield improvement ingredients may also reduce drip loss, limit package purge and decrease freeze-thaw drying.

The role of pH

The pH of meat and poultry is a key factor in moisture retention. The higher the pH, the greater the protein’s ability to bind moisture. Processing must also be considered.

“The pH of a live animal is 7, after rigor it can drop as low as 5.4, so the goal is to manipulate it up again to more than 6,” says Dave Grex, director of meat technology, Newly Weds Foods, Chicago.

This can be accomplished through the addition of functional ingredients, as well as environmental considerations.

“It’s important to test your water for pH, minerals and impurities, and adjust, soften and filter as needed,” Grex says. “Always keep in mind that the animal has up to 70 percent water already in the muscle, so it makes sense to bind as much of that as possible.”

Newly Weds Foods carries a full line of sodium and potassium phosphates for more traditional means of function, as well as specialty clean-label ingredients, including organic acids, citrus fibers and flours, and oat hydrocolloids. “All of these are highly functioning and work by either trapping the moisture inside the meat, or manipulating the pH to increase the protein water holding capacity,” Grex says.

Each of the processes involved in turning muscle into a consumable protein can impact yield. This includes cutting, chopping, grinding, emulsification, refrigeration, cooking, freezing, thawing, packaging and reheating, according to Ron Jenkins, commercial development manager–meat, poultry and seafood, Innophos, Inc., Cranbury, New Jersey. To maximize yields, functional ingredients are added to handle the stresses resulting from such processing and handling treatments.

Tom Katen, technical service representative, Cargill Texturizing Solutions, Minneapolis, says, “Many precooked meats can experience cook shrinks of 30 percent or greater. Plus, they can have a very dry texture when reheated. By adding functional ingredients, you get better yields, freeze-thaw benefits and a great-tasting precooked meat item.”

Ready-to-eat deli meats also often contain ingredients to improve cook yield. “The improved cook yield results in more saleable volume, more consistency, reduced purge in package and better margins for the processor,” says Stephanie Carlson, global marketing communications manager-meat industry, Corbion, Lenexa, Kansas. “The benefit for the consumer is a juicier product, improved texture and an overall better quality product.”