The Kroger grocery store chain and many of its affiliates allocate space in the refrigerated meat department to marinated and seasoned proteins. The sectioned off area is identified with shelf tags, and in some urban areas where there’s a larger one- or two-person household population, smaller “ready-for-cooking” packs may be merchandised with appropriate sides.
In general, animal proteins are rather tasteless foods. Processors can flavor uncooked proteins through the use of industrial marinades and brines, as well as dry rubs, eliminating this preparation step by the consumer. Butchers may also topically apply flavorings to cuts packaged in-house. Such ready-to-cook flavorful meats invite shoppers to explore and allow for variety without the commitment of purchasing the condiment.
Kroger offers everything from Jamaican jerk pork tenderloin to mesquite steak fajita strips to blackened chicken breast. For Cinco de Mayo, a store may create a Mexican fiesta meal solutions display with beef barbacoa and carne asada. Some of these products are commercially seasoned and packaged, whereas others are prepared at stores.
Springdale, Arkansas-based Tyson Foods Inc., offers a range of flavored fresh meats under the Seasoned Cuts brand. Chicken, pork chops and steak tips are all available with the popular smokehouse seasoning. There’s also chicken with Italian as well as a southwest rub. Sesame pork strips are available for stir-fry and fajita seasoned beef steak strips are just waiting to be cooked to top a salad or get wrapped.
Tyson’s meats all contain an unflavored liquid solution to enhance moisture and extend product. Then a dry seasoning is rubbed onto the meat prior to vacuum packaging.
The technical term for the solution is brine or marinade. In general, it’s a mixture of salt and water, with or without flavorful ingredients. With a brine, uncooked animal protein is immersed in the liquid to absorb the solution. This can be a labor-intensive process and is typically not performed in an industrial setting. Marinades, on the other hand, are much more practical. Marinades are either injected into the protein or the protein is vacuum tumbled in the saltwater solution.
Industrial marinades often contain phosphates, which can improve the water-binding capacity of the protein. Phosphates also function as antioxidants, improving product shelf life by inhibiting lipid oxidation.
Injected marinades have limitations regarding flavorful particulates, as they can clog injection needles. This is not an issue with the vacuum tumbled process, which is very conducive to particulates for flavor and visual appeal.
Vacuum tumbling typically provides the most consistent distribution of seasoned saltwater solution. Proper vacuum ensures rapid movement of the solution throughout the protein, helping eliminate air pockets and pinholes. As the protein swells in the vacuum tumbler chamber, some tenderness is achieved.
Industrial marinades mask inconsistencies in uncooked protein that come from breed, diet, age and physiological growth or maturity of the animal. They can also assist with improving the eating quality and flavor of lower-quality cuts of meat, allowing for a better price than the unmarinated cut.
Marinades also eliminate meat preparation for consumers. And, in the case of new McCormick Grill Mates Marinated Bacon from Sigma U.S., Phoenix, a subsidiary of Sigma Alimentos, provide a point of differentiation and added value in the crowded bacon case.
Sigma uses a three-step process to enhance the natural flavor of the bacon. The pork is marinated to soak in flavor, then smoked with natural hardwood smoke, sliced thick and finally seasoned with a blend of McCormick Grill Mates seasonings.
“Marinating has been bringing more flavor to steak, chicken and pork for years, so it made great sense to do the same with bacon,” says Jeff Gaunt, marketing director at Sigma in the U.S. “Our three-step process delivers more flavor than bacon that is only smoked, making it easy for consumers to enjoy a bacon that tastes better than any bacon they’ve had before.”
The classic Ultimate Bacon is marinated and seasoned with extra bacon flavor. McCormick Grill Mate’s flagship flavor, Montreal Steak, uses a robust blend of pepper, garlic and spices. Smoky Applewood combines the sweet, smoky blend of chili pepper, garlic and Applewood smoke flavor. A blend of sweet brown sugar, bourbon, red bell peppers and spices flavors the Brown Sugar Bourbon bacon.
“What makes this new product truly innovative among bacon everywhere is the fact that it’s marinated,” Gaunt says. “Other bacons on the market are typically flavored just with smoke.”