Mixing Nitrite Alternative Ingredients

Written by Allen Dawson, Meat & Poultry Market Manager

It’s that time of year when processors are getting ready for another busy holiday season. Demand will soon spike for countless pounds of turkey, ham, bacon and deli meat for holiday and post-holiday gatherings. And with that, we know that all of these proteins have some level of nitrites in it for a bacteria inhibitor, a shelf life extender and because it’s lethal to botulism. Nitrites are made from a general reaction of nitrogen oxides in an alkaline aqueous solution, with the addition of a catalyst.* It’s also responsible for the pink color in cured meats. Just describing this process puts off the consumer and the industry hears them.

More than ever, meat scientists are turning to ingredient companies for natural replacements for phosphates, shelf life extenders and nitrites as well. Many of these new ingredients are made with functionality in mind without much consideration for how difficult they might be to process. All-natural or organic ingredients tend to be very light powders and this causes issues in the processing plant. First, when these powders are dumped into a 200-gallon mixing tank, the powder goes up into the air and if the mixing room isn’t properly ventilated, the ingredient dust can contaminate other areas in the plant. Meat Processors fight hard to ensure that food allergens are not cross contaminated anywhere in the facility so this is a big concern. Another problem and an expensive one, is that the dust is very tough on the motors that are in the mixing room. We have seen cases where mixing rooms go through motors in months. Many think this is the burden of the beast, but it is not.

Another area that is problematic is how poorly these light ingredients dissolve into water. Once in the tank, the light ingredients tend to form into balls and ride on the surface of the water and are not proportionally added to the solution as intended. This causes many product failures down the line including shelf life, sliceability, color and flavor. These are serious issues and our powder induction and dispersion line of products can help. We have three main models for powder induction: the Fast Feed, Optifeed and the PIC.  They use an induction system in conjunction with a liquid ring pump. This system pulls the light powder ingredients down into the hopper thus reducing or eliminating any dust that is dumped from the bag. Because we have a pump that highly disperses the lighter ingredients into the solution, we have very little to no clumps or balls floating on top of the water in the tank.

In summary consumer demand for organic / natural ingredients and the demand for fewer ingredients in foods is never going to stop, but the industry is responding. We’re seeing more alternative ingredients and some European countries have capped marination levels, for example. We are the mixing technology experts and are here to help you with the growing pains of incorporating these new ingredients into your process.  Contact us any time!

*Wolfgang Laue, Michael Thiemann, Erich Scheibler, Karl Wilhelm Wiegand “Nitrates and Nitrites” in Ullmann’s Encyclopedia of Industrial Chemistry.

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