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Developing value-added meat products with non-allergen ingredients

Two years of R&D found that pulse ingredients can functionally replace wheat-based ingredients in bologna, hot dogs and beef burgers, while boosting nutrition.

In your nearest supermarket, you might find pulses in the canned foods aisle, on the soup shelves or in the dry section next to the rice. That’s today. Look to the future, though, and things could change significantly.

Expect to find pulse ingredients included in far more products in grocery stores. After all, pulse-based ingredients provide health benefits, are higher in protein and, unlike cereal-based alternatives, are also gluten-free.

Since 2016, Zeb Pietrasik has been studying the functionality of a variety of pulse-based ingredients as an alternative to the standard wheat crumb and wheat flour binders used in bologna, hot dogs and beef patties. This research was principally funded by the Alberta Livestock and Meat Agency (ALMA) and Alberta Pulse Growers.

“We started with burgers and screened over 30 ingredients, both pulse and non-pulse, and came up with a ‘final four’ binders to use in burgers,” said Pietrasik, Meat Scientist with Alberta Agriculture and Forestry’s Food Processing Development Centre.

In 2017-18, Pietrasik put his finalists — pea starch, textured pea protein, potato starch and rice flour — through their paces as binders for burger patties. The challenge was to test how these ingredients performed against wheat-based products, then ask consumers to weigh in on the burger’s taste.

Rigorous functionality and sensory testing

“The consumer provides the ultimate test,” Pietrasik said. “You might get very good results from the processing point of view, but if it’s not liked by consumers, there’s no point using it.”

Pietrasik’s research showed that pea starch and textured pea protein ranked the highest in functionality and consumer acceptability in beef burgers. Pietrasik’s team further pushed the envelope to improve the firmness and juiciness of the burgers by using a 50/50 blend of pea starch and fibre. Consumers loved it.

For bologna and hot dogs, Pietrasik’s research looked at alternatives to the wheat flour typically used as a binder in these products. The data showed that white navy bean flour and pea starch were strong candidates for substitution, without sacrificing functionality or consumer acceptance. Nutritionally, they’d be superior.

Having done this applied research, Pietrasik is now going out to industry with the findings. A well-received presentation to the Canadian Meat Council Conference in May 2018 confirmed what Pietrasik suspected: that food manufacturers are keen for tested ingredients that function well, meet with consumer approval and provide a gluten-free alternative.

With a firm foothold in the soup and canned goods aisle, pulse products now seem poised to enter the meat categories. While there’s no guarantee, Pietrasik’s data supports a case that processors are likely to find compelling.

“When compared to wheat flour, all pulse ingredients were on par,” Pietrasik said. “It can be used to replace wheat crumb in these applications with no detrimental effect on the consumer acceptability. This is very good news for pulse growers.”