Meat+Poultry - August 2018 - 79

Unlike for most foods where no definition
for the term natural exists, the US Dept. of
Agriculture (USDA) has defined natural as it
pertains to meat and poultry. The definition,
however, can be confusing and at times even
misleading. The USDA states that meat and
poultry products can be labeled natural if
they are only minimally processed and don't
have any artificial flavorings, colorings,
preservatives or other additives.
So what's minimally processed? Some argue
that deboning chicken breast is more than a
minimal process. What are "artificial other
additives?" There's a great deal of latitude with
interpretation of that one.
For many marketers, humanely raised,
hormone-free, antibiotic-free and similar
claims are part of their justification of a
natural claim. Research has also shown that
consumers tend to associate natural meat and
poultry labels with local, family farms.
"The ingredient label is still a major
consideration for consumers who want to
steer clear of things with chemical-sounding
names," says Tom Rourke, director of business
development, Corbion, Lenexa, Kansas. "Even if
they don't know what might be unhealthy about
some of those more traditional ingredients,
they are still not comfortable with them. Many
natural solutions make successful replacements
for synthetic options in terms of efficacy, flavor,
functionality and cost-in-use."

The USDA specifically prohibits the use of
artificial flavors in meat and poultry labeled
as natural. Identifying natural options that
deliver on flavor throughout shelf life, and after
cooking, if applicable, can be challenging.
"Functionally natural flavors perform very
similarly to artificial flavors, though some
artificial flavors are difficult to replicate using
natural flavors," says Roger Lane, marketing
manager, savory flavors, Sensient Flavors,
Hoffman Estates, Illinois.
Yeast extracts are often part of a
seasoning mix, as they enhance flavor and
may be considered a clean-label alternative
to monosodium glutamate. Yeast are
microorganisms consumers are familiar with.
Many yeast extracts in the market are
made from strains of baker's yeast. The yeast

grows and ferments a sugar source, and is then
exposed to enzymes that break the yeast cell
wall, a natural process called autolysis. This
allows the flavor components of protein and
amino acids from the yeast cell to be extracted.
"Yeast extracts can provide taste
enhancement when less clean ingredients are
removed," Lane says. "Since we produce our
own yeast extracts, we're able to meet the
unique needs of each of our customers. If a
manufacturer wants to go even cleaner than
flavor or yeast extract, we also have a range
of from-the-named-source extracts that are
labeled as natural extract.
"Most taste issues can be solved either with
a yeast extract alone or a combination of yeast
extract and natural flavor," he says.
Flavors and seasonings are often delivered
through breadings and batters. Manufacturers
must be mindful of the multiple ingredients
that go into coating the protein.
"In the process of breading a protein, the
three basic steps include a pre-dust, the batter
and the breading itself. Egg white proteins can
aid with binding the breading to the protein
substrate," says Elisa Maloberti, director, egg
product marketing, American Egg Board,
Chicago. "Egg white works well in a highadhesion pre-dust at levels of 5 to 7 percent."
Egg whites are a clean-label alternative
to chemical-sounding ingredients. They are a
natural option and labeled simply as egg white
on the ingredient statement.

Dollar sales for the natural
segment is nearly four times
that of the organic segment,
according to Anne-Marie
Roerink, author of the 2018
Power of Meat study. | 08.18 | MEAT+ POULTRY


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