US bodies develop healthier meat product for soldiers

By M J Deschamps

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Nutrition Beef

A tastier, healthier and cheaper meat alternative is being designed for American soldiers to eat in combat, its developers claim. Three parties – the US Army Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center, the Department of Defense’s Combat Feeding Directorate (CFD) and US integrated food processor FPL Food – are collaborating on the jerky-type product.

It is manufactured in a “continuous osmotic dehydration” process, using ground meat that is dehydrated – or cured.

The military currently uses conventional beef jerky within its ‘First Strike Ration’, an eat-on-the move ration concept designed to be consumed during the first 72 hours of conflict. Rations require a three-year shelf-life at ambient temperatures (circa 27˚C), so commercial jerky has its disadvantages, said Tom Yang, senior food scientist on the Food Processing, Engineering and Technology team at CFD.
“When you store conventional beef jerky at that temperature for that long, it becomes brittle and hard to chew… this new product is very juicy and tender, and contains much more moisture,” Yang told GlobalMeatNews.

On health issues, Yang said: “Conventional beef jerky is very salty – and not very healthy. Soldiers eat it and become very thirsty… but we’ve been able to produce a jerky-type product that is one-third of the salt content.” The improved version will be much cheaper to produce, he added.

Commercial beef jerky involves meat being soaked in brine for many hours before being dried in an oven for many more. “With the alternative process, you cut down on a lot of energy… you actually run the whole system on refrigerated temperatures,”​ said Yang. The alternative product is not exposed to any high temperature until the last two minutes of production, when the jerky is rinsed with hot water to make it microbially safe.

The new product is not meant to replace military use of conventional beef jerky, but is instead being used as a healthier alternative, and one with more variety, said Yang. Any ground meat can be used, including beef, pork, chicken and seafood, he added. Nutritional supplements such as anti-oxidants, Omega-3 or even caffeine can be incorporated.

“We foresee a lot of benefits for the soldiers with this new product – in terms of taste, from a nutritional standpoint, and the option for performance-enhancing ingredients,”​ said Yang. 

This meat processing technology was developed originally by France’s Association Pour Le Développement De L’Institut De La Viande. Yang received funding from the US Army’s Foreign Comparative Testing Program (FCT) to bring the technology to the US.

The new product is expected to roll out in about eight months’ time for the US Army.

Related topics Meat

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