When buying a ham in a store, none of us know if it takes 30, 50 or 70 percent of water with polyphosphates and nitrogen derivatives
In the middle of the curing plant stands a loudly working shaking machine the size of a large washing machine. This is the main character of this story – the injector. Next to her, in a plastic bucket floats a pale gray gooey covered with a thick sheepskin coat, which only after several finger-stirring shows the surface of the liquid. The injector, using special needles, pours, as much as possible, this gray liquid into high-quality cold meats. “President’s ham,” grandma ham, sirloin and smoked bacon, which we buy every week in the store, after dropping the injector increase their weight from several dozen to one hundred percent.
The masses are fighting for survival
– I’ve had this plant for 18 years. When it was still a provincial butcher, I put all my savings into it. My wife and, in fact, the whole family – says Zygmunt, the owner of this plant on the last day, when we try everything that the injector spit out during the week on vodka. He is 50 years old, walking around in a suit in a suit, perfumed with perfumes and, he claims, ate his own teeth on the production of sausages. He agreed that for a week he would watch with his own eyes how meat products are produced today. Condition – no one in the industry will recognize it in this text.
His butcher’s, employing 20 employees, has been on the verge of bankruptcy for half a year, like many other companies in the industry. – Until recently, I was supplying over a hundred points in the province, I opened a chain of own stores, I experimented with new products. The catastrophe came in the summer of last year. Within a few months, sales dropped by several dozen percent. Unemployment started to increase rapidly in the area, people stopped buying meat or did it less often. Even during martial law, when the meat was on the cards, they ate it more than now.
It is not known how many establishments have gone bankrupt in the last 12 months. Compared to the mid-1990s, the number of processing plants is now halved. The rest began to fight for survival. Fighting for prices. Starting from small, home-made bets to stock market tycoons, everyone reduces costs. Companies connect, they slow people down, they limit energy consumption.
80 percent production costs were until recently a raw material. Throwing more and more tendons, skins and fats into cutters (mills) grinding meat for sausages and sausages was no longer a solution for these times. Manufacturers have decided to take a more radical step – to supplement on a mass scale the most expensive cured meat species with the cheapest raw material – water.
Inflate the pet immediately after slaughter
Pale gray liquid, which is denoted in plastic buckets for the injector, diluted with a large amount of water solutions used, among others for the production of coca-coli polyphosphates, nitrites and nitrates, which is also used in the production of explosives and agricultural fertilizers. The professional name of this liquid is brine. A liter of brine costs a little. Dozens of needles working inside the machine pump the flakes of meat into hams, sirloins and hams with this brine. Their weight must increase by several dozen percent. This is an iron custom that almost all producers in the country had to adapt to, if they did not want to. In order for the injected preparations to not pour out of the meat quickly, its patches are then thrown into the tumbler. A machine resembling a concrete mixer in the construction crushes the flesh so that the liquid inside is evenly distributed.
Mr. Bogdan serving the injector, a dry, bleak phlegmatic in his fifties, is one of the most important employees in the company. The efficiency of the whole butcher’s farm depends on his skills.
– Efficiency is a key word in meat processing – says Bogdan, without taking his eyes off the working machine – today 90 percent. high-quality cold cuts, which we buy in stores, are high-performance products. In short, this means that when the ham or sirloin drops for a few days in the refrigerator, water will start pouring out of it.
More precisely, this gray liquid, which floats in a bucket under a synthetic foam coat.
– Most machines in the country entered these machines in the 1990s – says Zygmunt. – Used injectors and tumblers from Germany migrated to Poland by flocks. It was such a newest cry of technology that, for understandable reasons, no one wanted to brag. I myself in 1993 went with three thousand brands in my pocket for a power generator, but when I saw what wonders such a machine can do with a piece of meat, I bought a well-worn copy for all the money. One week I was learning how to make the right pricking – the sausages immediately gained 20 percent, not to mention the appetizing juiciness … I did not even know how quickly and quietly the competition acquired even more efficient machines.
Artificial increase of the juiciness of cured meats was only recently a shameful procedure adopted quietly by most producers. Available devices and industry customs allowed for increasing the weight of the best types of smoked meat up to 20%.
The real race began in the late 90s, when Polish standards regulating the composition of food products were considerably relaxed, and at the same time modern German injection machines of the next generation appeared on the market. Pumping meat in Polish plants has taken the form of a race between producers. Today, there is a free-marketer on the market – the amount of water in sausage is limited only by the quality of the equipment and the strength of the meat. The latest fashion craze are machines that thanks to the flexible needles avoiding the bones are able to “inflate the pet after slaughter even before disassembling it to pieces.
– What do you pour the most water on? – I ask Zygmunt, when the break in the supply of brine stopped almost all the production in the plant.
– First of all, for smoked meat. Ham, ham, sirloin, and therefore the products of the highest commercial value. Once about ten kilograms of raw ham was made about 8 kg of sausage. Today, from the same ten kilos, the most greedy can make up to 20 kg. Only technology is decisive. I am limited by a few years German machine, thanks to which I can accelerate up to 50 percent.
– I can inject a maximum of 50 kg of brine in 100 kg of raw material.
– People have not stopped tasting more and more rare sausages?
– First of all, everyone did it gradually, so people got used to the new quality. In addition, to not feel too much that meat in meat is less and less, we learned to add more spices.
– Nobody came up with the idea of getting a market made with cold cuts made according to traditional recipes – only meat and herbs?
– I knew a guy who wanted to use this opportunity. Original recipes, thoughtful distribution, advertising in big cities, but he managed to do really tasty things. He went bankrupt after six months. The inflated hams and sirloins finished it; he could not even approach them with a price. I know that there were more daring ones, but most of them ended similarly. The producers managed to teach people what meat they want to eat.
When buying a ham in a store, none of us is able to determine whether water with polyphosphates and nitrogen derivatives takes in it 30, 50 or 70 percent.
A terrible death destroys meat
The brine finally arrived, as usual in a powdered form. To make it faster, Bogdan pours the powder into several buckets at once, and I go to the garage for a rubber hose, which will soon connect the curing room with the toilet.
– Sometimes when someone exaggerates with pumping, you can see such gray infiltrates resembling natural veins or tendons – Mr. Bogdan explains to me, throwing flaps of meat on the tape (there are already packages with an inscription “Staropolska – plastic, to better keep the water that always starts to leak only after some time). If you hold a little ham in a plastic package, after a few days it will start to collect the same as I pour from this bucket – a synthetic cocktail that most people take for natural juices.
Sometimes, however, meat behaves unusually. It looks normal, but I do not want to take water, it spills out like a sponge. – It often happens that meat unexpectedly “is already pouring in the plant, even if I do not know how carefully prepared them for injection,” says Bogdan. – It means that before and during death, the animal suffered so much that the degenerated meat, if it were to be avenged by man, did not want to take the usual portion of water.
It turns out that the humanity of slaughter also has economic value – if the animal is subjected to stress or worse to suffering before death, meat due to violent disturbances of metabolism loses a lot of qualities, including flavors.
And poor rural slaughterhouses often do not have special devices regulating, for example, the movement of pigs on the way to slaughter, so that each one is stunned individually and in peace. As a result, pigs are grazed several at a time in the wild. In addition to stress alone, animals often have to go through draconian torments before they let them die. The problem is that stun and bleeding should be done right after each other in the shortest possible time, so that the animal bled quickly in a dream.
A common mistake, especially in small slaughterhouses, is the low tension of domestic stunners – as a result of being overpowered by a too small dose of electricity, the pigs wake up, hanging on the slaughter chains. They die in agony then, and in the meat there is a dangerously large amount of blood, in which the bacteria multiply rapidly, which further worsens its quality and – to the affliction of entrepreneurs – the ability to absorb water.
Adhesive to keep the ham (at least in the store)
The third day of my work in the butcher’s shop. I’m going with Zygmunt to sell a few days of production to dozens of stores in the area. – Today the store manager is a position of greater prestige than during martial law – Zygmunt in the car reminds me to say “good morning”, goodbye and best nothing more – in the difficult situation of the entire industry, the managers decide what kind of meat people will eat, who and what he will get them. And the store managers have first and foremost two wishes – that the sausage is cheap and that it cuts well into thin slices, because only now people want to take it. In short, at least in the store, the cured meat must be kept in a heap. And phosphate alone phosphates are not enough for this. You have to add a lot of “glue” to keep it in good health for a few days and let go of the juices in the home refrigerator. If you add a strong “glue”, even a well-inflated ham can stick like rubber.
Adhesive is, of course, a conventional name. It is about chemical compounds that are able to bind the excess water inside the sausage, thanks to which they ensure its firmness. Until recently, the producers of the doll used ordinary starch to add in, or poured sacks of flour. However, even flour, especially when it was sprinkled in more and more quantities, became another item on the savings list. Native entrepreneurs from the industry have surprisingly quickly acquired the latest achievements of world science. Preparations of soy proteins, starch, seaweed extracts and preparations of tropical plants – specimens of world flora bind so much water injected into the meat that, as a result, they are cheaper than those used for decades in Polish butcheries. The meat binding capacity of tropical preparations and traditional flour was compared to the difference between paper glue and Super Glue.
In recent years, many companies have started to bring to the country cheaper powdered substances that effectively prevent premature leakage with hardly pumped water. The cheapest (and thus the most popular among manufacturers) are, unfortunately, unstable preparations, susceptible to premature fermentation, which accelerates the decay processes in meat.
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