The use of soy in red meat and poultry applications goes beyond extenders.
Farmers and ranchers of cattle, hogs, and broilers aren’t the only ones raising products for the nation’s meat supply. Soybean producers contribute to a variety of finished red meat and poultry products, including ground meats, emulsified meats, and some whole muscle cuts.
Bit by bit – or bean by bean – soy is becoming a more common ingredient found in meat and poultry processing plants. “We have seen some growth in interest in soy proteins on the part of the meat and poultry industry in the U.S.,” says Eric McEver, meat applications specialist for soy supplier Archer Daniels Midland Co. (ADM), Decatur, IL. “The quality of soy protein products has improved drastically over the last two decades, and the meat producers that use soy protein understand the benefits and effective use of soy proteins in meat products.”
A ploy for more soy
Processors increasingly look at soy options for a variety of reasons. One factor is sheer economics.
“With the continuing rise in meat prices, soy products in meat applications are gaining additional interest. The economic and functional benefits from soy protein can allow manufacturers to optimize formulas for flavor, texture, and cost, helping manage the increasing strains from beef and poultry costs,” says Charlie Ross, marketing leader, North America Meat Operations for St. Louis, MO-based The Solae Co., which offers a variety of soy ingredients with meat and poultry applications.
“It helps to reduce the overall cost structure of the end product,” says Kent Rudeen, product manager for the soy flour product line, Cargill Food & Pharma Specialties, Minneapolis, MN. His company offers the Prosante brand of textured soy flour products.
“We have done studies where a twenty percent inclusion in beef patties, for example, of hydrated textured soy flour can reduce raw material costs in the neighborhood of eighteen percent. It allows you to reduce cooking losses, retain additional water, and increase yields, among other things,” he adds.
Ron Ratz, protein technical manager, Wixon Inc., Milwaukee, WI, says: “Soy acts as an adhesive or cohesive with its binding properties. It will hold and trap flavors. And not only can it bind fat and water to help gelatinization, it will also help to stabilize fat emulsions.”
More meat processors are exploring the use of soy proteins as a result of higher lean meat costs, higher production costs, and competitive pressure to reduce costs, notes McEver.
Economic concerns are likely to remain a growth driver for the foreseeable future, adds Peter Golbitz, president of Bar Harbor, ME-based Soyatech Inc., publisher of the Soya and Oilseed Bluebook. “It should continue to expand,” he says of the use of soy in red meat and poultry products. “Foodservice and institutional sales will drive this, as will the rising costs of meat.”
Soy offers other benefits to certain meat and poultry products. “Soy protein is perceived as healthy by consumers. This provides an opportunity for those innovative companies to find ways to enhance their traditional products with soy protein and provide a healthier solution to consumers,” Ross says.
Jerry Hall, president of Excalibur Seasoning Co. Ltd., Pekin, IL, says the nutritional profile of soy has been perceived as an advantage, especially among those who use soy in ground meat for school meal programs. “They like that high protein content, and they also add vitamins and minerals to textured soy protein,” he notes, adding that soy has a certain halo effect in many circles. “Also, there have been some very positive results on soy products on heart health.”
From a functionality standpoint, the inclusion of soy in a meat or poultry formulation can impart a variety of important product characteristics. “There are many benefits to using soy protein in meat products. Soy protein can be used to reduce lean-meat content in meat products while retaining the protein content of the finished product. Soy proteins will bind water, emulsify fat, stabilize emulsions, ensure textural integrity, and reduce cost in meat products,” explains McEver.
Marcy Epstein, director of research and development for supplier First Spice Mixing Co. Inc, Long Island, NY, agrees soy ingredients can serve an important purpose in several meat and poultry products, including sausages. “Soy ingredients are primarily used to increase meat yield, cut cost, improve after-cook texture, improve water retention and binding, and reduce shrinkage,” she says.
The skinny on soy
As meat and poultry companies incorporate soy into their product mix, they are learning more about the properties of this basic foodstuff.
As a protein source, soy has been around for centuries. Today, there are dozens of soy ingredients for food-grade use, typically available in powder and textured forms for meat and poultry producers. “The powdered forms can be used in all types of meat and poultry applications -- whole muscle injection and/or marination, emulsified meats and/or sausages and ground meats and sausages. Textured soy proteins are typically used in ground meat and poultry products, like patties, nuggets, crumbles and meatballs, and some sausages,” explains Ross.
Soy proteins with meat and poultry applications can be classified into three types. Isolated soy proteins (ISPs) are highly-processed forms that contain up to 90 percent pure soy protein. They are typically available in powder form.
“In meat, soy isolates are most often used as part of an injected brine to plump up chicken breasts and keep them moist when cooked, particularly when held for a long time in heat, such as in restaurants. They are also added to processed meats like bologna to help the emulsification of the meat and bind water and fat together,” Golbitz says.
Similar to isolates and also widely available in powder form, soy concentrates can be used in injected brines in meat. “Also, textured soy concentrates at sixty-five to seventy percent protein are used to add chew to meat alternatives and are used in extended meat patties to add protein and bind fat and water. Concentrates are lower flavor and more functional than textured soy flour,” notes Golbitz.
ADM offers a line of Arcon® soy protein concentrates, used for functional and traditional purposes. “Functional SPCs will form a gel when chopped with water until hydrated and will also form an emulsion when hydrated and chopped with a fat source,” McEver says., ADM offers textured soy protein concentrates under the name Arcon® T.
Soy flours comprise the third common grade of soy ingredients for meat applications. Textured soy flour is made from defatted soy flour and is used to extend ground beef in institutional and restaurant applications. It is about fifty percent protein, and the balance is fiber, carbohydrates, and minerals, Golbitz says.
McEver relays that soy flour and soy grits require the least processing, soy flour can be heat treated and used in meat products as fillers, and they do not form gels and emulsions when chopped with water and fat.
ADM, among other companies, offers a form of soy flour called TVP, a textured soy protein product made by extruding soy flour. “TVP products can be produced in an assortment of sizes, shapes, and colors. The textured flake or granule can be hydrated and mixed with patties, nuggets, and sausages to reduce raw material costs, retain moisture, and increase yield,” McEver remarks.
First Spice Mixing Co. also offers a form of defatted soy flour. Its Texite product is a textured soy protein with various meat and poultry uses, Epstein relays. “Texite is a texturized soy protein used to extend and bind water mainly in ground beef patties and pork sausages,” she says.
Excalibur offers soy flours in different grind and mesh sizes, as it also does with its various soy protein concentrates. “It is used a lot in school programs. They (school foodservice operators) buy fortified textured soy proteins and like it because the protein content is about fifty to fifty-five percent in soy flours and sixty-five to seventy-five percent in soy concentrates,” notes Hall.
Manufacturers continue to develop new types of soy proteins with potential meat and poultry usages. The Solae Co. recently introduced a range of structured vegetable proteins designed to emulate whole-muscle meat-like characteristics in finished product applications. “These can be used in formed products such as chicken nuggets and meat patties for a more premium effect, in shredded beef, and in retort products, or in vegetarian applications to emulate whole-muscle meat cuts or chunks,” says Ross.
ADM has rolled out two new low-nitrite/nitrate soy protein concentrates for the poultry industry. “Arcon® SP and Arcon® SMP can be used in injected/marinated and coarse ground poultry applications without the fear of turning the products pink after cooking,” says McEver.
It also launched Nutrisoy® Next, a proprietary blend of soy protein and other functional ingredients that is extruded through a cooling die. This process produces a flavored soy protein product with the characteristic muscle striation of whole muscle meat, explains McEver, adding that Nutrisoy® Next can be shredded and added to a product such as barbeque pork or used as a stand alone product such as fajita strips.
Whatever type of soy ingredient is used and for whatever purpose in a red meat or poultry product, there can be formulation challenges when combining animal and vegetable proteins. Excalibur provides flavor compounds to processors looking to offset any taste issues. “One thing you have to watch when you extend a product is that you have to beef it back up with flavor profiles—you have to add beef flavors,” says Hall.
Wixon Inc. offers texturized vegetable protein (TVP) and soy isolates. It also offers Wix-Fresh, a flavor modifier to enhance and stabilize meat products’ natural color and flavor, as well as mask off-notes in meat applications. Wix-Fresh is available in liquid or power form, a natural flavor, and allows a clean product label. NP