How to measure and analyse the texture of food, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals and adhesives.

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

The Secret of Sausages – Shear Genius

As consumers become increasingly aware of the links between nutrition and health, many traditional food products are experiencing poor sales growth or even decline. 

Sausage on a forkFamily favourites that are high in fat or sugar are being conscientiously replaced with innovative new products that boast a healthy banner. Sausages, in particular, have suffered bad press thanks to their high saturated fat content. As a result, manufacturers have been searching for ways to increase the appeal of their sausage products and move away from the negative image that surrounds them. 

Over the past few years, new varieties of sausage have appeared on supermarket shelves boasting reduced fat content and lower salt levels for the more health-conscious consumer. When something is removed from the normal composition of a product, however, its taste and texture is inevitably altered and the standard of the end product is at risk. 

Unfortunately, in their quest for health, consumers are disinclined to compromise on food quality, which leaves manufacturers with the difficult task of balancing the two. Products must be healthy but also taste good. Although flavour is certainly a concern, a product’s texture and mouthfeel is equally important to the consumer’s overall enjoyment. Undesirable texture can significantly reduce the appeal of sausages, resulting in poor sales.

The fat content of a product has a significant effect on its taste and texture. Fat reduction can result in a tough, dry meat with a bland taste that is unappealing to consumers. Analysing the texture of meat sausages provides an effective way to monitor these changes. Chilled, frozen, reformed, pre-cooked and coated sausages can undergo a number of comprehensive tests to gauge the quality of their mouthfeel. With the help of sophisticated texture analysis instrumentation, manufacturers can evaluate the effects of fat and salt reduction, highlight quality inconsistencies and adjust formulations or techniques accordingly. 

The overall composition of a sausage is key to its textural characterstics. The type of meat, fat-protein ratio, salt and moisture level, degree of comminution and filler content all have an effect on the texture of the final product. In addition, textural qualities can be influenced by such factors as processing conditions. 

Following formulation changes that aim to enhance the health proposition of a sausage, manufacturers may employ any number of processes and treatments to achieve improved meat tenderness and sensory characteristics. Additional ingredients are also likely to be incorporated to compensate for what has been removed. All of these processes, treatments and additives will affect the textural characteristics of the end product. Analysing these effects enables manufacturers to adapt the formulation and composition of their sausages as required, ensuring optimum texture.

A consumer’s first assessment and perception of sausage texture occurs when biting through the meat, so a logical test approach is to measure the force required to cut or break the product. This provides an indication of the consumer’s perception and identification of undesirable textural characteristics, such as toughness. 

What’s the testing solution?
An effective method for analysing biting or shearing of sausages and sausage type products is the Warner-Bratzler shear blade, which is one of the most widely used devices for determining the textural properties of sausages in food research and quality control procedures. 

Characteristic of the Warner-Bratzler shear is its V-shaped cutting blade, which helps to position the sausage sample while testing takes place. Samples are placed on a platform beneath the Warner-Bratzler blade in a central position to its triangular inset and between a blade guide. The arm of the TA.XTplus then brings the blade down at a constant speed to perform a shearing test which determines the textural quality of the product. The higher the force required to cut through the sample, the more difficulty a consumer would experience in biting the sausage, therefore indicating its toughness.

The texture of the sausage meat itself is not the only factor that will affect a consumer’s ability to bite into it. The skin or casing chosen to surround the sausage is also an important consideration. The Warner-Bratzler test can give an indication of the strength of the sausage’s outer skin, represented by the initial force required to break the casing during the test. For the assessment of salami, chorizo and pepperoni a Craft Knife blade may be a suitable alternative.

It’s a meaty issue
With the growing emphasis on health, sausage manufacturers are working hard to respond to consumer demand for tasty products with a more healthy proposition. Achieving this combination requires the removal of certain components, be it fat or salt, from the original formulation of the sausage, which in turn requires treatments and additives to retain a high quality flavour. Texture analysis provides product developers with an efficient way to measure and quantify the effects of these procedures on sausages.

Using a variety of specially designed attachments, manufacturers and processors can ensure that the textural quality of their sausage products is optimum, thereby ensuring consumer satisfaction.

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