As mentioned, there are many forms of phosphates, each possessing unique functionalities. Most are linear molecules and contain a single phosphate (ortho), two phosphates (pyro) or three or more phosphates (poly). There are also metaphosphates, which are composed of several phosphates in a ring-shape structure.
Processors often use blends of phosphates designed for specific applications in order to benefit from the varied functionalities. This includes reducing oxidation, chelating metals, preserving color, lending freeze/thaw stability, maintaining flavor and preventing rancidity of fat along with the development of warmed-over-flavor when a product is reheated. Some phosphates excel at extracting proteins to bind muscle pieces, providing for stable emulsions in comminuted meats. Others may reduce the viscosity of meat batters, reducing fat smearing during stuffing of casings.
“In addition to mainstream phosphates, we offer meat processors a number of specialty compounds,” Esposito says. “For comminuted meat products, we have ingredient systems that enhance water-retention capacity and adhesiveness to increase yield in final products.”
These systems extract salt-soluble protein effectively, improving the elasticity and texture of meat. They also exert an antioxidative effect, which extends shelf life.
“For prepared meat products, we developed a system that dissolves quickly in ice water. It can reduce the loss of processing and cooking, improving yield effectively,” Esposito says. “The phosphate system also improves flavor retention and color during processing, keeping the prepared meat tender.”
There are ingredients designed specifically for injectable marinades. Such marinades are often used with poultry and certain cuts of pork.
“The system dissolves quickly for superior dispersion performance in ice cold water,” Esposito says. “When added at a rate of 0.5 to 2 percent, depending on the application, the phosphate blend does a superior job of retaining juices and nutrients to provide a succulent, tender texture to the cooked meat.”
Innophos offers a specifically designed phosphate to improve the cook yield in ham. What differentiates this phosphate is that it is an integrated phosphate.
“This means that the individual phosphate types are not physically blended but made in process,” Heidolph says. “This provides superior solubility properties plus higher ionic strength, optimal diphosphate level and higher, but well balanced, pH compared to conventional phosphates or physically blended equivalent.
“In whole muscle applications, processors and retailers struggle with purge and cook loss,” Heidolph says. “We developed a new system that offers an optimized blend of salt, sodium phosphates, starch and carrageenan, which reduces purge in injected whole chickens. This blend also utilizes an integrated phosphate technology that allows the amount of purge under refrigerated conditions to be reduced.”
Processors need to be aware that most phosphates are sodium based; thus, if reducing sodium content is a concern, it might make sense to opt for potassium phosphates when available. However, because potassium often contributes bitter notes, there may be an impact on flavor. Regardless of type, phosphates tend to be self-limiting, as too much negatively impacts flavor and quality. Nevertheless, USDA limits the amount of phosphate that can be used in meat and poultry to 8 oz. per 100 lbs. of product.
Phosphates are permitted in whole muscle bone-in and boneless products including roasts, steaks, hams, chops, tenderloins, poultry breasts, thighs and wings, whole chicken and turkey, muscle strips, and more. The application of phosphates for such whole muscle products is by injection, vacuum or static marination. For ground and comminuted systems such as patties, loaves, coarse ground sausages, hot dogs, bologna and meatballs, phosphates are applied in a dry or in solution form. Some phosphates are difficult to dissolve into a solution, with cold or hard water, and the presence of excess salt increasing the challenge.
Another key ingredient for many prepared meat and poultry products is an antimicrobial to ensure food safety. Several organic acids function in this role, many with additional benefits, such as limiting growth of spoilage bacteria and enhancing flavor.
“It is the lactate-diacetate combination that has become most widely used and that has achieved status deserving of a place in the basic toolbox,” Sebranek says. “Both sodium and potassium lactate may be used with sodium diacetate, which is a combination of 60 percent sodium acetate and 40 percent acetic acid. Sodium and potassium lactate may be used, singly or in combination, in all fully cooked meat and poultry products at up to 4.8 percent of the total formulation to inhibit the growth of several pathogenic bacteria including Listeria monocytogenes on ready-to-eat products.”
When used at less than 2 percent, they are considered flavor enhancers and not food safety ingredients.
Both lactates and phosphates are safe and suitable multifunctional processing ingredients. Their contribution to the quality, safety and versatility of prepared meat and poultry is well established.