For any business one of the major keys to success is repeat sales. What is the major contributing factor in generating repeat sales? Is it price? Is it quality? Certainly price is important but many consumers purchase meat products for reasons other than price.
Often products are purchased because people like the way they look or taste. Quality can be defined as the degree of excellence of a product or product superiority. While there is certainly a definite difference in quality between a “ham with natural juices” and a “ham and water product,” you can also have a high- or low-quality natural juice ham and a high- or low-quality ham and water product. The real key to generating repeat sales is consistency. If people buy your product today and like it the next time they purchase it, they want the product to have the same characteristics. There are many things processors should do to help assure consistency in their products.
External/Interior Color: If the product is smoked the external color is significantly affected by the smokehouse schedule. The length of the smoking cycle and the environmental conditions (humidity) in the smokehouse play major roles in external color. You can have color ranging from golden mahogany brown to a dark muddy color. Your selection of raw materials can also have an effect on external and internal color. Beef contains more muscle pigment than pork and will give the product a darker external and internal color. Turkey white meat will yield a lighter color than turkey thighs.
Texture: Both the type and the amount of fat influence the texture of your product. Beef fat is firmer than pork fat and pork fat is firmer than poultry fat. Texture is also affected by the temperature of the meat at grinding and the condition of the grinder. Meat which is warm (45°F) will not grind the same as cold meat (32°F). Dull grinder plates and knives or a worn grinder screw can contribute to mushiness in the product. Mixing time is critical in obtaining the desired texture in a product.
During mixing we extract protein that is later coagulated during cooking and helps to bind the product together. Sometimes we want to maximize protein extraction and sometime we want to minimize it. Generally speaking, we minimize protein extraction in fresh sausages and maximize protein extraction in cooked sausages. You can take two identical batches of fresh pork sausage and mix one batch one minute and the other batch 10 minutes and finished texture on the two products will be completely different.
Flavor: Flavor is one of the key attributes of any processed product. Pick a flavor that has a good balance of salt, sweetener, spices and flavoring and then make sure the seasonings are evenly distributed throughout the product. You do not want part of the batch to contain more seasoning than another part.
To help assure good distribution of your nonmeat ingredients, evenly sprinkle them over the top of your product while it is mixing or chopping. Do not add them all in one big pile.
Your attention to detail during manufacture of a product will significantly affect the finished product characteristics. The more attention you pay to detail during manufacture, the more consistent will be your product. Remember; consistency is the number one way to generate repeat sales.