Tools of the Trade  
Injection technology, for purposes of enhancing flavor, moisture, safety and cost saving, is driven by dueling consumer and operational demands.
Staying on point in the meat and poultry business can be challenging. Consumers want flavor, tenderness, variety, consistency, safety and transparency – often all at once. Meat and poultry processors, meantime, want to deliver quality products and have a healthy, consistent and ultimately profitable return.

Injecting meat and poultry with the purposes of quality, yield, safety or shelf life, is one way for consumers and processors to get what they want out of their protein products. Injection technology, combined with ingredient formulations, infuses a product with a host of attributes and is appropriate for some products under certain circumstances, versus using a tumbling process.

From a functional perspective, injection offers several benefits. “There are advantages to injection. We see improvement in scores among consumers for juiciness and tenderness and an increase in yield from loss that can occur during storage, transportation and cooking,” says Chance Brooks, Ph.D., professor and associate chair of the meat science department at Texas Tech Univ., Lubbock, Texas.

In addition, injecting fresh meat deep into the muscle with a water-soluble marinade or brine can effectively enhance the taste of a product, such as marinated pork tenderloin or a seasoned chicken or turkey breast. Flavorful marinated products fit to consumers’ appetite for quicker and easier preparation of flavorful proteins. According to the 2017 Power of Meat report, sponsored by Sealed Air and conducted by 210 Analytics, 29 percent of consumers said that they buy value-added products.

While injection is used to provide flavor and tenderness primarily to pork and poultry products, Brooks says there are growing opportunities for the technology to be used with other proteins. “You’ll continue to see deep penetration in pork and chicken, but we’ve seen more change and ebb and flow in proteins that traditionally don’t have products enhanced and marketed to consumers, such as beef and lamb,” he observes.

The latest injectors on the market are designed for better functionality, with a variety of features. For example, to prevent issues with pumping, including potential clogging, Nu-Meat Technology, South Plainfield, N.J., has equipped its injectors with a pressure regulation system and designed a system that delivers uniform distribution of brine with no “dead zones.” Nu-Meat’s line of Metalquimia Auvistick injectors has been upgraded to include a new injection head for greater precision injection percentage.

Suppliers are also improving controls for optimal injection. Marel, with US offices in Lenexa, Kansas, and an innovation center in Des Moines, Iowa, has equipped its Townsend low-pressure injection system for bacon with a color touchscreen that allows for the storage of up to 40 recipes with accurate, easy changeover and that enables users to monitor injection performance. That injector also provides cost savings, with a “bathtub” design that helps users reduce brine waste by 10 percent.