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The art of sausage-making

A butcher from Mindelheim and Fraunhofer scientists have succeeded in manufacturing tasty sausage varieties containing only two to three percent of fat. The almost fat-free sausage is now making its way onto the refrigerated shelves of German shops.

Master butcher Josef Pointner from Mindelheim hit on the idea of making low-fat sausage. “Low-fat products for varieties such as ham sausage, Leberkäse (a German meat loaf specialty) or salami or Weisswurst (Bavarian veal sausage) have never been available until now. But I was only partially successful in producing these sausage varieties,” Pointner says. The Fraunhofer scientists were able to help. The trick is to replace the fat in the sausage by proteins. For that to work, the proteins in the meat need to become more closely cross-linked – in other words, they must unfold their structure in such a way as to bind as much water as possible. “Everything depends on the cutter, a bowl that revolves around a set of sharp rotating knives. All the ingredients are combined in this bowl: lean meat, spices and ice. In conventional cutters, the knives can reach peak temperatures of up to 75 degrees Celsius. This causes denaturation of the proteins, which then form unwanted small lumps in the sausage-meat and partly lose their ability to bind water,” explains Dr. Peter Eisner of the Fraunhofer Institute for Process Engineering and Packaging IVV. A series of tests were carried out at the Institute’s own sausage plant to achieve the ideal fat content and the right consistency of the sausage-meat. “The secret is to monitor the temperature and to keep on cooling the cutter knives and the sausage-meat. Perfect timing is the crucial factor here: Just one moment too late, and the knives will get hot,” declares Eisner. Fraunhofer and Joseph Pointner hold the patent for this manufacturing process. The “VielLeicht” low-fat sausage will be available in southern Germany from the middle of January 2008. Crisp wieners, succulent ham sausage and suchlike are very popular in Germany, where about 1.5 million metric tons of sausages and meat products are consumed every year. Two thirds of these are hot or cold boiled sausages. But these varieties usually contain a great deal of fat to ensure that they have the right consistency and taste good. Varieties sold until now as low-fat sausage may contain as much as 20 percent fat. Even very lean poultry-meat sausage is fatter by comparison. Professor Ulrich Buller, Senior Vice President Research Planning at the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft, stresses: “Fraunhofer know-how has gone into this low-fat sausage. Our scientists are researching to benefit real people. In this case they have co-operated with a small enterprise to develop lean sausage varieties for health-conscious consumers.”

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