Public sector buyers are being encouraged to source healthier supplies of meat-based foods which take advantage of a £40,000 research project just completed in Scotland to cut salt and fat levels.
Quality Meat Scotland (QMS) was involved in the research, which was match-funded by Scottish Enterprise. QMS is holding a public sector seminar on February 25 to inform buyers and suppliers of the revised products and the specifications to request. The organisation worked with seven different meat producers and the food innovation team at Abertay University on the project.
In advance of the seminar, cabinet secretary for rural affairs Richard Lochhead was at an event in St Andrews in Scotland last Friday at which a new healthier bacon was unveiled. The wet curing process used ensures that the bacon produced is 25% lower in salt and more than 20% lower in fat than the industry average.
Butcher Irvine’s of Perthshire worked with QMS on the project, together with Strathmore Farming Company which supplied the pigs, processed by St Andrews Abattoir Company. The bacon was developed in a project investigating the potential to lower the salt and saturated fat content of eight traditional Scots products while retaining acceptable flavour. Products included black pudding, sausages and Scotch Pies and flavours were tested in taste trials involving school age children.
“Recently we’ve seen healthier versions of burgers, sausages and even the famous Scotch pie being produced by the sector as it responds to consumer demand for healthier food choices as part of a balanced diet,” said Lochhead. “It’s encouraging to see one of our breakfast favourites join the list and I look forward to seeing others in the future.“
National Farmers Union Scotland president Jim McLaren added: “By reducing the salt and fat content of a number of red meat products, whilst maintaining exceptional quality, this collaborative project further shows how red meat can be enjoyed as part of a healthy and balanced diet.”
QMS health and education co-ordinator, dietitian Jennifer Robertson said a big challenge of the project had been the need to avoid compromising on the flavour and shelf-life of the products.
“The development of this bacon involved a wet-curing process and the meat is cured with the skin intact,” she reported. “Through this process the skin absorbs some of the salt and the salt content of the bacon is then lowered when the skin is removed. Extra trimming of fat after the curing process creates a lower fat content.
“The result is bacon which has a salt content of 2.29g per 100g, comfortably below the Food Standard Agency’s 2012 salt target for bacon which is 2.88g per 100g.” The bacon also has a total fat content of 12.6g/100g and total saturated fat of 4.4g/100g.
Since becoming involved in the project, Irvine’s has switched its entire wet cure bacon range to the new production method. “The resulting lower salt bacon has proved so successful it is now our standard product and the feedback we’ve had from customers has been very positive,” said Kenny Allan of Irvine’s.