Independent Processor editor-in-chief Sam Gazdziak spoke with Dr. Liz Boyle of Kansas State University about judging the specialty game meats and flavored snack sticks.

Sam Gazdziak: I’m here with Dr. Liz Boyle from Kansas State University. So Dr. Boyle, what category did you have to judge for this year’s competition?

Dr. Liz Boyle: Today I have two categories. One was the specialty game meats, so an assortment of game products, and none of the products are the same. Some are summer sausage; some are salami; some are hot dogs; some are jerky. So it’s a real mix of products, and then the other product category was snack sticks that are flavored with all different kinds of flavorings and inclusions. These are examples of some of the types of products that might be in the snack sticks category, and you can see some of the real obvious differences are the product size. One product is a much larger diameter, [and] one’s a smaller diameter. A processor may have a market for both diameters. I typically view a snack stick usually a smaller diameter product than something this size, but as long as the product is uniform, it’s not discounted. This has more of a smooth surface; this has more of a wrinkled surface. What’s nice about both of these is within their product category they are both consistent with the sticks that are placed on the tray, so this is uniformly wrinkled throughout the product. There’s no distraction that one is wrinkled and one is smooth.

In this category, processors often use inclusions since it is a flavored snack stick, so there might be cheese, cheese and jalapenos, [or] all different kind of inclusions. One of the things I will look for are the inclusions uniformly distributed throughout the product. So when we cut the snack stick lengthwise, you can see in this stick that the cheese is pretty uniformly distributed. It’s cut in small enough pieces that it’s not overpowering the snack stick, yet when I bite into each bite, I get a piece of cheese. Here’s another snack stick that had cheese inclusions and you can see that the cheese is not nearly as [uniformly distributed]. When I bite into this end, I get cheese in my bite, but when I bite into this end, I wouldn’t know there was cheese in this snack stick. So it is important, especially for the competition, to make sure the inclusions are uniformly distributed in the product so that whoever bites into the product get the same flavor profile with each and every bite that they are taking.

In this snack stick, you can see that they’ve got inclusions of pineapple, which is a unique inclusion. It gives it a very sweet flavor, and if there is too much pineapple, that sweetness of the pineapple can overpower all the other flavors that are in the snack stick, so all you get is a sweet flavor. When you are processing this, you want to take into account, yes, I’m going to use inclusions but will the flavor [of the inclusion] overpower everything else. In this case, the dominant flavor profile was sweetness and you couldn’t really pick up a lot of the meat flavor. So I would recommend in this case, the processor reduce the amount of pineapple inclusion. Still leave it in there, but use maybe a quarter or a half of this much of the pineapple to allow some of the other flavors to come through in the product.

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