DEC 04, 2017 10:58 AM PST

Improving Meat Fermentation Using Next-Generation Sequencing

Fermentation can be described as a process that uses bacteria to make energy from carbohydrates in the absence of oxygen. Fermentations are used to make foods including bread, beer, wine, yogurt, cheese, and sausage. This process adds value to food products by producing specific flavors, carbonation, altering food texture, and increasing nutrient bioavailability.

Researchers found that specific species of bacteria present in spontaneous fermentations produce sausages of higher quality and better flavor compared to sausages fermented with commercial starter cultures. Credit: De Keyser

In meat specifically, carbohydrates, proteins, and lipids are metabolized by microbes to form volatile organic compounds (VOCs) which affect the flavor profile of the finalized product. Researchers from Italy sought to gain a better understanding of the microorganisms, metabolic pathways, and biochemical processes that improve the organoleptic qualities of sausage including taste, smell, texture, and mouth feel.

To answer this question, a meat batter made of pork, lard, salt, spices, coriander, nutmeg, cinnamon, sucrose, nitrate, salt, and wine was formulated in a local meat factory to produce Felino type sausages. The meat batter was either allowed to ferment naturally or was inoculated with a commercial starter culture composed of Lactobacillus sakei and Staphylococcus xylosus. The meat batter was then stuffed into synthetic casings and placed in a climatic chamber to ferment for 3, 7, and 40 days. The authors of the study utilized next generation sequencing coupled with gas chromatography to determine which microbes produced specific VOCs and therefore, ideal flavor profiles.

It was determined that the commercial starter cultures used to inoculate the meat batter were overactive in the fermentation process resulting in the production of acetic acid and short chain fatty acids. This type of fermentation produced an undesirable product that tasted “pungent, vinegary, cheesy, and weedy”. These products were found to have an increased density of Staphylococcaceae species.

Sausages produced by spontaneous fermentation are already primed by bacteria that are endemic to the meat in the sausage. This type of fermentation produced more desirable sausages due to the development of medium and long chain fatty acids. These sausages were found to have more desirable flavors described as “fruity wine, waxy sweet apricot, and banana brandy”. The most abundant bacteria in these fermentations were Lactobacillus sakei and Lactobacillus curvatus.

Future research including whole genome sequencing, metagenomics, and metabolomics will allow scientists to gain a deeper understanding on the fermentation process. This will allow food scientists to control the microbiota in meat fermentations in order to produce safe meat products of high quality.

Sources: Applied and Environmental Microbiology, ASM Communications, Food Microbiology: An Introduction

About the Author
  • I am a postdoctoral researcher with interests in pre-harvest microbial food safety, nonthermal food processing technologies, zoonotic pathogens, and plant-microbe interactions. My current research projects involve the optimization of novel food processing technologies to reduce the number of foodborne pathogens on fresh produce. I am a food geek!
You May Also Like
SEP 30, 2018
Microbiology
SEP 30, 2018
These Microscopic Things Elude Our Eyes Every Day
We take much of what we can see for granted, but if your eyes had the observational power of a microscope, you’d probably look at the world very diff...
OCT 02, 2018
Drug Discovery
OCT 02, 2018
Mycobacterial Lung Disease, FDA Approves New Drug
New drug seeking to treat antibiotic-resistant lung disease has just been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The drug is called ‘Arik...
OCT 25, 2018
Microbiology
OCT 25, 2018
Common Herbicides Increase Antibiotic Resistance
If we have to feed a growing planet, it may hurt us in the long run if the methods used in farming are actually increasing antibiotic-resistance in bacteria....
NOV 02, 2018
Microbiology
NOV 02, 2018
As the Climate Warms, Lyme Disease Cases Will Increase
Ticks are known to carry infectious illnesses; Lyme disease is North America's most common tick-borne disease....
NOV 09, 2018
Cardiology
NOV 09, 2018
Lyme Disease And The Heart
In small-town New England, everyone knows the unique characteristic symptom of Lyme disease. A bulls-eye pattern rash around a tiny tick bite, infection gr...
NOV 26, 2018
Health & Medicine
NOV 26, 2018
Nontuberculous Mycobacterial Infections in Tattoos
Contracting an infection when getting a tattoo is always a major concern. Consumers should be aware of the risk of developing infections with bloodborne pa...
Loading Comments...