Because I’m a butcher I have spent years learning how butchery works. I’ve taken what I agree with and have built my company based on what I feel is best practice. Somethings, along the way, I’ve decided are not for us. Before I dive into the 5 things you need to know about cold cuts, let me give you a bit of general and Meat & Meet specific history.
In ancient times, meat was very difficult to store without a source of refrigeration. Charcuterie, however, changed that. Charcuterie refers to all food preparations, raw or cooked, using salt (most often) as a preservative. It is pork that is mainly used, but also beef, goat, and game such as roe deer and wild boar can be preserved with salt.
Specifically, pork was very suitable for salting and smoking. The delicatessen then went through industrialization, which unfortunately greatly deteriorated its quality. It has become a source of environmental destruction, of intensive breeding that kills animals that have never really lived.
However, awareness is awakening and we are returning to products that are more respectful of the environment, of animals. The artisanal charcuterie is back at the front of the stage. A multitude of producers are leaning towards the production of organic charcuterie. These products are often high quality and in great demand.
Eleven years ago when we started Meat & Meet, our mission was to work with local meat. For us, it was important to be local and organic.
We had a good start, the local meat in Grenada was and is organic but the spices and other ingredients to preserve the meat were not available. In order to avoid using additives, we sourced a natural solution from a like-minded supplier in Montreal.
Now I’d like to present to you five things that you need to know about Deli meats (cold cuts).
1. There Are Three Types of Cold Cut Meat
The first is whole cuts of meats that are cooked and then sliced (examples: roast beef, corned beef). They are exactly what they sound like – a section of meat that has been cooked, possibly flavored with salt, spices, or sugars that is then sliced. Typically these are the more expensive type of cold cuts.
Sectioned and formed products are restructured meat products – such as multi-part of cooked hams. At Meat & Meet, we don’t do that type of cold cut. They are prepared from chunks or pieces of meat and are bonded together to form a single piece. The substances that bind these together are non-meat additives, meat emulsions, and extracted myofibrillar.
At Meat & Meet we use carrageenan kappa, they are long chains. They are extracted from
red seaweeds and we used it as a “glue” to improve the slice firmness of cooked ham.
Typically they are produced by extracting the meat proteins (by adding salt and massaging or tumbling the meat which brings these “sticky” proteins to the surface) or by adding non-meat proteins. Myosin is the major protein that is extracted. The meat becomes soft and pliable and is then shaped through the application of force using different molds or casings. It is then cooked to coagulate the proteins which bind the chunks of meat together in its new shape.
Processed meats (sausages) are the majority of what we call cold cuts. Sausage manufacturing includes any type of meat that is chopped, seasoned, and formed into a symmetrical shape-example, salami. There are two methods for preparing the ingredients: emulsion prepared where the meat is finely chopped and the hydrophobic proteins react with fat, the opposite protein, and the hydrophilic will react with water to hold fat in the solution and non-emulsion which typically are coarser grinds. The same basic technology is used for sectioned and formed meat products but with no tumbling and massaging required.
There are several meat sources for sausages including beef, pork, mutton, veal, chicken.
2. The “Nitrates” or “Nitrites” Ingredient
The sodium nitrite is used alone or in conjunction with sodium nitrate as a color fixative in cured meat (bacon, hot dog, etc.). It helps prevent the growth of Clostridium botulinum, which can cause botulism in humans. During the cooking process, nitrites combine with amines naturally present in meat to form carcinogenic nitroso compounds. These compounds have been associated with cancer.
It’s important to know that eating deli meat every day is not a good habit. To help reduce the possible cancer-causing effects of sodium nitrite it’s suggested to eat foods with protective antioxidants before meals, such as vitamins C and E.
At Meat & Meet, we do things differently. We worked with our supplier of spices in Montreal and they developed a nitrite substitute pre-converted. The ingredients are cultured celery juice powder, salt, vegetable oil (canola). These natural ingredients have not been associated with cancer!
3. The Danger of Cold Cuts: Listeria
Listeriosis is an infection caused by eating food contaminated with the bacterium Listeria monocytogenes. To protect against listeriosis is to thoroughly wash all food that is to be eaten raw like fruits and vegetables; keep foods to be eaten raw separate from uncooked meats, and wash hands, knives, and cutting boards with hot soapy water.
At Meat & Meet, we use a color code. That means a yellow board is for the chicken, a blue board for the fish, and a red board for the meat. Listeria is killed by pasteurization and cooking; however, in certain ready-to-eat foods such as hot dogs and deli meats, contamination may occur after cooking but before packaging. At Meat & Meet, we always vacuum pack the deli meat to assure not only the freshness but the contamination.
4. How Much are You Paying For Water?
It is perfectly normal and legal for food companies to add water, sodium, or a water and spice solution to many lunch meats including ham and roast beef.
At Meat & Meet, we don’t add water to our deli meat, and if it needs it the water its added before the cooking so the water is all evaporated.
For example, “10% water-added” or “Contains up to 10% added moisture” – which means you are paying for one pound of water for every 10 pounds of meat that you buy.
Since food is sold by weight it’s important to read the labels, not only for the declaration of how much water or other solution has been added, but to see where “water” is listed in the ingredient.
5. Deli Meats are Highly Perishable
No food lasts forever-especially when it comes to cold cuts. While some of these products have natural or chemical preservatives to extend shelf life, packaged cold cuts once opened will only last 3 to 5 days. Cold cuts sliced fresh from the deli 1-3 days if stored properly.
Be sure to use an airtight plastic bag to store them and put in the coldest part of the refrigerator.
Freshness dating of processed meats. What the date signifies:
- “Sell By” date means nothing more than selling the store how long to display the product for sale. Never buy the product after this date.
- “Best if used by” date means the flavor, taste, and quality of the product will be at its optimum before this date. It has nothing to do with freshness or safety.
- “Use by” date means just that – don’t consume the product after this date
That’s it for this article. If you have any questions come into the store and we’ll have a chat.
Want Some Organic, Local, Additive Free, Delicious Cold Cuts?
Come in and check out our selection. All our cold cuts are made in-house from local meats.
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