To overcome the challenges faced by food producers curing bacon products, leading technology provider GEA Food Solutions has developed an advanced injection technique which contributes to high brine retention and low standard deviation – crucial to ensuring consistency of distribution, quality and yields. 

GEA’s Multijector, an automated injection system, introduces brine in a high-density injection pattern, combined with low injection pressure, avoiding injection points becoming saturated which can cause the brine to leak out. A higher density of needles allows less brine per needle to be injected at a lower pressure. 

Benefits for bacon producers using a high-density injection pattern include improved slicing yield, reduced post-injection purge and drip loss, optimum moisture and salt levels, while avoiding injecting air or foam, ultimately extending the shelf life of bacon by several weeks. Reduced purge not only impacts yields, it also means reduced downtime spent cleaning the equipment and surrounding environment.

GEA product expert, Wim Sturm, said: “Customers will not purchase bacon products which have inconsistent appearance, discolouration or a short shelf life. The distribution of brine should be even, consistent and well retained within the product. A tight needle pattern, in combination with immediate post-injection handling such as shaking or vibration, helps needle marks to be closed and the brine is more easily absorbed by the meat.”

The quality of injection needles used also has an impact upon the efficiency of the process as well as the quality of the end product. Bent needles lead to under injected and over injected areas in the final product, which causes inconsistent product quality, short shelf life, and can cause a tiger stripe pattern. GEA OptiFlex needles are stronger than traditional stainless steel, and have the superior property of recovering their shape time and time again instead of becoming deformed or bent. 

Time-in-Meat is a GEA injection precision technique based on the specific combination of stroke height and injection cycle time, both optimised for each product type, running on the GEA MultiJector. Thanks to the Time-in-Meat technique, the needles stay in the product longer during injection, which leads to better brine uptake and more even brine distribution at a low injection pressure. As a result, product quality and consistency are significantly increased, and higher efficiency and yields can be achieved.

The meat and poultry sector can doubtless benefit by taking greater control of the brine injection process. This is driven by an understanding of the process and the quality of the equipment deployed to carry out the tasks involved – to ensure the benefits extend from the processor to the reseller and ultimately to the all-important end consumer.