Novel Pork Delicacies on the Plate

DENMARK - The Danish pig is a good one. At least, it is uniform and predictable and without any unpleasant surprises. However, the selection of exciting, tasty pork products would certainly not be averse to fresh, foreign input, whether they take the form of new pig breeds, new processing methods or a combination of the two. Scientists have now started a project that will take a closer look at the matter.
calendar icon 7 May 2009
clock icon 4 minute read

The Hungarian woolly pig looks like a cross between a sheep and a pig. It may also be an interesting new supplier of exciting new gourmet products. Photo: Danish Pig Production

Senior scientist Hanne Christine Bertram from the Faculty of Agricultural Sciences, Aarhus University, is the leader of a 3½-year project that includes research in the woolly Mangalitza pig from Hungary and high-pressure processing of pork.

Alternative pig breeds on the way

It looks like a cross between a sheep and a pig but it is not only its appearance that has made the diminutive, curly-haired Mangalitza pig grab the attention of scientists. Both it and the dark-skinned Iberian pig appear to be able to supply exciting new taste variations to the range of Danish pork products. Apparently, meat from the pigs has a nutty flavour. Now scientists are going to investigate if this is something that can be utilised.

The first step in the process is to produce enough animals for the studies. Danish Pig Production is responsible for mating Danish Landrace sows with Hungarian woolly boars or inseminating them with semen from Iberian boars. The sows are expected to farrow at the end of the summer and the first meat samples should be ready for analysis in the spring of 2010.

This is the point at which Hanne Christine Bertram enters the scene. The senior scientist will investigate the characteristics of the meat from the alternative breeds. The studies will include measurements of water distribution, texture, fatty acid composition and metabolites in the meat.

Meat under pressure

The meat from the pigs will also be subjected to high-pressure treatment after which the scientists will once again analyse meat tenderness and texture.

"High-pressure treatment preserves small molecules such as vitamins but alters large molecules such as proteins and thereby also alters meat structure enzymes," explains the senior scientist.

Salt is often added to processed meat products in order to improve meat binding. In order to prevent high blood pressure in consumers it would be preferable to reduce the salt content.

"We will investigate if high-pressure treatment is something that can be used to process meat products with a lower salt content and fewer additives while maintaining good taste and high quality throughout the meat product’s shelf life," explains Hanne Christine Bertram.

She will carry out some of the analyses using a huge apparatus that can perform nuclear magnetic resonance analyses – a so-called NMR spectrometer. For the high-pressure treatment of the meat a large facility is being rented in Germany.

Products of the future?

When the scientists have surveyed the meat from the new, alternative pig breeds and from the high-pressure treatments, the next step in the project will be to develop new products on the basis of the results achieved.

The scientists are also investigating if production of the new pig breeds is economically feasible.

The project, which began 1 January 2009, is being carried out in collaboration with Danish Meat Association and KU-Life and is supported by the Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Fisheries.

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