Phosphates, essential components of processed meats, are found naturally in living animal tissue as adenosine diphosphate (ADP) and adenosine triphosphate (ATP). Upon death, phosphates hydrolyze, and actomyosin forms. Actomyosin proteins have a limited ability to bind moisture.

Pyro- and tri-polyphosphate ingredients extract soluble proteins from the meat. This helps processed meat products retain the juiciness, flavor and mouthfeel associated with freshly cooked meat--even when overcooked. Polyphosphates mimic ADP and ATP to enable soluble protein interaction between adjacent meat proteins.

CURAFOS[r] BrineSolve, introduced in May 2004 by Rhodia (Cranbury, N.J.), is a distinctive sodium tripolyphosphate (STP) designed to dissolve in the presence of salt.

To support the phosphate extraction and increase processing yield, salt (typically 1.5%-2.0%) is necessary. Previous STP products/blends were not compatible with higher levels of salt in seasonings added to meat products, notes the supplier.

“For the phosphate to be functional in the meat, it has to interact with the meat protein; it can only do that if it is completely soluble,” says Gene Brotsky, a technical service representative for Rhodia's phosphates division. If it does not dissolve completely, “you are missing the benefits of the phosphate--a good yield and a tender, juicy product.”

Before BrineSolve, manufacturers first had to dissolve the phosphates and then add seasonings and salts. Undissolved particles clog the injectors or other equipment during the processing if added out of order. BrineSolve reduces the chance for undissolved phosphate, while offering spice and seasoning blenders an opportunity to prepare ingredients to season and marinate a chicken breast in one package.

Higher pH levels enhance the protein extraction and produce higher yields but have a detrimental effect on the color. “Alkaline phosphates can cause grayish color and a 'soapy' flavor in meat,” says Brotsky. Generic STP with a pH of 10 will produce high yields, but with unappetizing color.

“Manufacturers must understand their specific segment of the marketplace to maximize the benefits of using phosphates,” says Russ Kemp, Rhodia business manager for STP and phosphate blends. Often, this requires optimizing pH to obtain a good balance of appearance and yield.

For instance, with a pH of 8.1, CURAFOS ColorSure is designed to provide juicy, tender texture primarily for cooked turkey breast--without sacrificing the white opaque color associated with turkey breast. Additionally, it prevents “warmed-over” flavor by tying up the iron in the meat that causes oxidation.

CURAFOS OptiBalance phosphate blend is best for processors who supply meats to foodservice venues and are looking for higher yields where color is of somewhat less concern. With OptiBalance, the juices will not cook out and form a fluid in the casing but will remain in the meat. Also, with a pH of 8.6, the color is better than with generic STP.

These technologies and ingredients can be suitable for beef, ham, poultry and seafood. Prototypes of new phosphate blends are developed at the Rhodia Phosphates R&D facility in Cranbury, N.J., which includes upstream research, application labs, plus technical service. For more information:

Rhodia Specialty Phosphates North America, Gene Brotsky