Formulating meat and poultry products with naturally sourced ingredients is crucial to ensuring widespread consumer appeal. 

FMCG Gurus marketing and insights research shows 70 percent of shoppers worldwide believe it is important for foods and drinks to be completely ‘natural,’ with a clear preference for products that are free from synthetic ingredients and additives . In an internet survey of U.S. consumers, interest in free-from claims was highest for meat products, with 41 percent of US consumers seeking free-from products in this category .

Preservation helps to keep meat products fresh for as long as possible, but all meats are susceptible to deterioration during shelf life due to oxidation of fats and bacterial growth. Naturally sourced ingredients can extend the shelf life and help reduce food waste, lowering the carbon footprint. 

The composition, and in particular the fat and mineral content, make meats particularly sensitive to oxidation. One of the most effective ways to prevent this deterioration is to incorporate antioxidants to block the progression of oxidation reactions that lead to off flavors and off-odors. 

Rosemary provides a highly effective natural, plant-based solution. This well-known culinary herb is rich in a variety of naturally occurring compounds with antioxidant properties, including the potent antioxidant known as carnosic acid. In fact, rosemary is the most abundant currently known source of carnosic acid derived from nature.

New research in natural antioxidants is demonstrating the synergistic benefits of combining rosemary with other natural antioxidants to preserve quality and freshness. These blends expand the possibilities for even more effective natural preservation solutions. A combination of rosemary and pomegranate extracts, for example, combines carnosic acid with ellagic acid to achieve greater synergistic antioxidant protection. An added benefit is a lower use level in products, which can enable potential formula cost savings and reduced flavor contribution. Beneficial antioxidant compounds are also found in other extracts such as acerola cherry, spinach, and green tea. 

Studies on cooked pork demonstrate that this type of product is highly sensitive to fat oxidation during refrigerated storage. TBARS, a laboratory measure of rancidity that correlates strongly with sensory perception of oxidation in meats, was used to monitor oxidation during shelf life. Values climbed sharply over eight days indicating a highly oxidized product with warmed-over flavor. In contrast, the TBARS values for samples formulated with the rosemary and pomegranate blend remained extremely low, signifying that lipid oxidation was efficiently inhibited. Blends can also be highly beneficial for preventing fading of cooked pork when exposed to light. 

In addition to antioxidants, rosemary is also a source of natural antimicrobial compounds proven to inhibit the growth of bacteria on meat. Blends of natural ingredients can enhance this effect. For instance, the combination of rosemary extract with acerola cherry powder and buffered vinegar has an equivalent level of protection to sodium lactate. Tests carried out over nine days on fresh ground meat demonstrated that the blend significantly reduced bacterial growth compared to the control with no blend incorporated. Also, no off-flavors or odors developed and the bright cherry red color of the beef was maintained.

Rosemary is now well known for its natural ability to provide clean-label preservation, with the use of rosemary extracts increasing more than seven-fold globally between 2008 and 2019.  

With synergistic blends opening up even more effective solutions, there are more possibilities than ever to keep meat fresh the natural way. NP

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