A new, nature-based method to reduce microbe-caused spoilage of meat products

fried steak on a wooden board, garnished with vegetables.

Meat is very fastidious and resource-demanding in its production, still the wastage of spoiled meat products is enormous. Nowadays, a plethora of preservation techniques is available, but many of them cannot fulfill consumer’s demands or are not implementable for industrial production. We evaluated a novel method that is based on bacterial metabolites, which are produced by highly competitive microorganisms that colonize plants and protect them from pathogens. The conducted analyses lead to the conclusion that the microbial load in certain meat products can be significantly reduced by applying nature-based diazine derivatives that are typical metabolites of such beneficial bacteria.

For each kilogram of meat that is produced under current farming conditions, up to 15.4 m3 drinkable water are required. This makes meat production a highly resource-consuming process with a high impact on the local environment. In addition to this, methane production by cattle is a serious problem due to the accompanying greenhouse effect. Nevertheless, approximately 20% of the globally produced meat spoils due to microbial contaminations and is finally wasted. Avoiding this wastage would not only be a benefit for the producers and the environment, but also for the end consumer due to the reduced risk of food-borne diseases.

acib’s partner Roombiotic, a local start-up from Graz, has developed a nature-based method to increase the shelf life of processed meat product. Researchers from ACIB evaluated the novel method in order to verify that it is applicable for industrial applications. Tested products included fried chicken meat, but also raw, ground meat that is used for burger patties and similar dishes. When specific diazine derivatives (e.g. 2-isobutyl-3-methylpyrazine) were added to the products, the microbial loads were significantly reduced. Certain combinations of carrier substances and alkylpyrazines led to a more than tenfold reduction of aerobic bacteria. In addition to cultivation-dependent methods, the treatment efficiency was also assessed with confocal laser scanning microscopy and differential staining. This allowed to estimate the proportion of viable microorganisms without the necessity to cultivate them under laboratory conditions. The start-up will further optimize the application of natural alkylpyrazines in specific scale-up experiments under manufacturing conditions. So far, the conducted studies indicate that the shelf life of treated meat products can be extended by 30% and more.

Until more sustainable alternatives (e.g. in vitro meat) become feasible for mass production, we should try to reduce the spoilage of conventional meat to the best of our ability. The implementation of nature-based preservation methods is a promising approach to reach this goal.

This article is based on:  
Matthias Schöck, Stefan Liebminger, Gabriele Berg, Tomislav Cernava (2018), First evaluation of alkylpyrazine application as a novel method to decrease microbial contaminations in processed meat products. AMB Express 8:54  
Picture credits: Pixabay