Sausage casings: Alternatives for more sustai...
Sausage casings

Alternatives for more sustainability

Imago / Westend61
Pulses are the future: peas are a sustainable source of protein.
Pulses are the future: peas are a sustainable source of protein.

GERMANY, Frankfurt Fraunhofer Institute, Kalle and Van Hees are working together to find edible coatings.

The world's population is growing rapidly, and global warming is unstoppable. This also has an impact on the food supply. "In order to reduce the high amount of resources required for the production of meat products, it is essential to develop alternative sustainable protein sources and new manufacturing processes for food," Dr.-Ing. Daniela Fleckenstein of the Fraunhofer Institute for Process Engineering and Packaging (IVV) is convinced. And that's where the "Innovation Space NewFoodSystems" (NCCR), which is funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) and brings together more than 50 partners from science, industry and society, comes in. The experts want to lay the foundation for sustainable production of high-quality food. One project also involves sausage, or rather its casing. The Fraunhofer Institute, spice specialist Van Hees and casing producer Kalle have joined forces to develop a new generation of edible coatings and casings based on alternative proteins. These are then expected to find widespread use in the food industry.

"We aim to increase the shelf life of different foods such as fruit, vegetables, cheese, meat or fish and thus reduce food losses along the value chain," explains project leader Dr. Birgit Menne from Kalle. "By developing new casing and barrier systems using alternative protein sources, such as plant, algae or fungal proteins, the sustainability of existing systems can be improved on diverse levels."

If you think about meat products, you can't get around the functional properties of collagen, the main component of edible casings, today. Concepts for substituting collagen for various food applications are therefore to be developed first. This will be done by texturing and modifying tailored non-animal protein combinations along the processing chain. These layer systems should correspond to the mechanical and sensory properties of edible collagen casings and be used exemplarily as casing and barrier layers for vegan sausage products. The requirement: The casings based on alternative proteins should have a "tender bite with good filling properties at the same time". Once these casings have been found, they could be commercialized for plant-based meat and sausage alternatives and then transferred to other areas of application in the food industry. These include convenience packaging for take-away products, baking mixes, spices, rice and pasta, as well as biodegradable packaging for applications outside the food industry, up to and including the pharmaceutical and medical sectors.

Adapting animal functionalities

"The biggest challenge is to adapt the animal functionalities and get them to work in such a way that we can find the same textures we have known since childhood in plant proteins. This is not easy," explains Dr. Alexander Stephan, Head of Department of Science at Van Hees, in the video format "In Dialog" with NewFoodSystems Ambassador Prof. Dr. Hannelore Daniel. In addition, there are the different prices of animal and vegetable substances. As an example, Stephan cites the highly soluble potato protein, which used to be thrown away as a byproduct of starch production. Today, he says, it is the ultimate: "However, you pay € 15 to 20 per kg for it, while you can get half a pig for three euros," says Stephan, who, incidentally, is also a master butcher.

Meat will still be eaten in ten years, he said, but the animals must be kept in a species-appropriate manner. "In our home farm, we have always done that. The animals must have had a good life so that we can make something good out of them," Stephan argues. Added to this, he says, is environmental compatibility in production and fair treatment of farmers.

Trend toward sustainability irreversible

Dr. Hans Füßer, Director of Research and Development at Kalle, is also convinced that the trend toward greater sustainability is irreversible. "In Dialog," he presents the new "value-added casings," whose additional benefits go far beyond the classic casing functions. "They replace entire production steps in sausage making by transferring smoke, color and spices from the casing directly to the surface of the filling," Füßer reports. "This happens during the cooking process, after the contents of meat, cheese or tofu have been filled into the casing. After that, the product is ready and remains in the casing until the product is cut open or unwrapped."

In collaboration with NFS, he could also well imagine the development of biodegradable sausage casings. "Bringing together the issue of food in combination with preventing global warming is now no longer a trend, but a paradigm shift," he concludes. "There's going to be a change there, and it's irreversible. The meat industry has also understood that."

Source: afz - allgemeine fleischer zeitung 6/2022

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