What is Nitrogen Flushing?
Nitrogen flushing (not to be confused with a niacin flush
) is a type of preservation method used with packaged foods such as coffee beans, nuts, rice cakes, snack crackers and chips. When you go to the grocery store to buy a bag of chips, you'll probably notice the bag is puffed and filled with 'air.' But it's not exactly like the air we breathe because the package doesn't contain oxygen.
When processed food
is exposed to oxygen, it deteriorates - oils go rancid, discoloration occurs and the food spoils. Oxygen can be removed from the packaging by removing all of the air with a vacuum, which will increase the shelf life of the food packed inside.
Regular vacuum packaging works fine for sturdy solid foods like beef jerky and fresh meat, but it doesn't work well for foods that are delicate, like snack chips and crackers. These foods need protection so they don't get destroyed during transportation, so food manufacturers use nitrogen flushing and sealing machines to force the regular air out of the packaging and inject nitrogen gas
into the packaging.
Nitrogen doesn't react with food like oxygen does, so foods stay fresher longer and it doesn't affect the flavor or texture of the food. And since the nitrogen fills up the bag, it helps to protect the delicate foods inside. Of course, once you open the bag, the food is no longer protected and will start to deteriorate; however you can maintain some of the freshness by keeping the package closed with a twist tie or clip, or by placing the food in a resealable container.
Without oxygen, the food can not "oxidize". Oxygen is necessary for the decomposition / rotting process. Nitrogen is unreactive and does not support the decomposition so the food will remain in better condition for a longer time. Nitrogen is often added to packages of chips/snacks/etc. to "fill" the bag and prevent breakage, while not encouraging spoilage due to oxidation.
There are some who put nitrogen gas into automobile tires rather than air due to the fact that the oxidation of the tire will be reduced (at least on the inside).
Lastly, remember the effect is somewhat limited as regular air is 80% nitrogen anyway - though that 20% oxygen is extremely reactive.
As nitrogen is stable, it will not react with the ingredients and affect the taste
What is Jerky?
Jerky is a food known at least since ancient Egypt. Humans made jerky from animal meat that was too big to eat all at once, such as bear, buffalo, or whales. North American Indians mixed ground dried meat with dried fruit or suet to make “pemmican.” “Biltong” is dried meat or game used in many African countries. Our word “jerky” came from the Spanish word “charque.”
How Can Drying Meat Make it Safe?
Drying is the world’s oldest and most common method of food preservation. Canning technology is less than 200 years old and freezing became practical only during this century when electricity became more and more available to people. Drying technology is both simple and readily available to most of the world’s culture.
The scientific principal of preserving food by drying is that by removing moisture, enzymes cannot efficiently contact or react with the food. Whether these enzymes are bacterial, fungal, or naturally occurring autolytic enzymes from the raw food, preventing this enzymatic action preserves the food from biological action.
What are the Types of Food Drying?
There are several types of food drying. Two types of natural drying are sun drying and “adibatic” (shade) drying occurring in open air. Adibatic drying occurs without heat. Solar drying sometimes takes place in a special container that catches and captures the sun’s heat. These types of drying are used mainly for fruits, such as apricots, tomatoes and grapes (to make raisins).
Drying from an artificial heat source is done by placing food in either a warm oven or a food dehydrator. The main components of an electric food dehydrator include:
a source of heat,
air flow to circulate the dry air,
trays to hold the food during the drying process and mesh or leather sheets to dry certain types of foods.
Why is Temperature Important When Making Jerky?
Illnesses due to Salmonella and E. coli from homemade jerky raise questions about the safety of traditional drying methods for making beef and venison jerky. The USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline’s current recommendation for making jerky safely is to heat meat to 160 degrees Farenheight before the dehydrating process. This step assures that any bacteria present will be destroyed by wet heat. However, most dehydrator instructions do not include this step, and a dehydrator may not reach temperatures high enough to heat meat to 160F.
After heating to 160F, maintaining a constant dehydrator temperature of 130 to 140F during the drying process is important because the process must be fast enough to dry food before it spoils and it must remove enough water that microorganisms are unable to grow.
Why is it a Food Safety Concern to Dry Meat Without First Heating it to 160F?
The danger in dehydrating meat and poultry without cooking it to a safe temperature first is that the appliance will not heat the meat to 160F — a temperature at which bacteria are destroyed — before it dries. After drying, bacteria become much more heat resistant.
Within a dehydrator or low-temperature oven, evaporating moisture absorbs most of the heat. Thus, the meat itself does not begin to rise in temperature until most of the moisture has evaporated. Therefore, when the dried meat temperature finally begins to rise, the bacteria have become more heat resistant and are more likely to survive. If these surviving bacteria are pathogenic, they can cause foodborne illness to those consuming the jerky.
Is Commercially Made Jerky Safe?
Yes, the process is monitored in federally inspected plants by inspectors of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service. Products may be cured or uncured, dried, and may be smoked or unsmoked, air or oven dried. The following terms may be on processed jerky products:
“Beef Jerky Chunked and Formed”
“Beef Jerky Ground and Formed or Chopped and Formed”
“Species (or Kind) Jerky Sausage”
The product has been chopped and may be dried at any stage of the process, and it is stuffed into casings. It’s produced from ground or chopped meat, molded and cut into strips. Beef Jerky containing binders or extenders must show true product name (e.g., “Beef and Soy Protein Concentrate Jerky, Ground and Formed”). It’s produced from chunks of meat that are molded and formed, then cut into strips produced from a single piece of beef.
What is the Safe Storage Time for Jerky?
Commercially packaged jerky can be kept 12 months; home-dried jerky can be stored 1 to 2 months.
For additional food safety information about meat, poultry, or egg products, call the toll-free USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline at 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854); for the hearing-impaired (TTY) 1-800-256-7072. The Hotline is staffed by food safety experts weekdays from 10:00am to 4:00pm Eastern time. Food safety recordings can be heard 24 hours a day using a touch-tone phone.
The media may contact the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline at 301-504-6258.
Information is also available from the FSIS Web site: http://www.fsis.usda.gov/
What type of jerky is New Mexico Foods jerky?
New Mexico Foods “SouthWestern” style “Carne Seca” Beef Jerky and is guaranteed to be top quality. Our product is produced from a single piece of nutrient-dense meat that has been made lightweight by drying. A pound of meat weighs about four ounces after being made into jerky. Because most of the moisture is removed, it is shelf stable can be stored without refrigeration up to a year, making it a handy food for backpackers and others who don’t have access to refrigerators.
Are all beef jerky products produced from a single piece of meat?
How many different kinds of preservatives are in your jerky?
Salt. The only preservative in New Mexico Foods jerky is salt.
What preservatives do other companies use?
Typically, companies use several different types of preservatives. PROTEIN, PHOSPHATES, SODIUM ERYTHORBATE, SODIUM NITRITE, SUGAR (SUCROSE).
What are the different types of beef jerky?
“Beef Jerky” is produced from a single piece of beef.”
“Beef Jerky Chunked and Formed” is produced from chunks of meat that are molded and formed, then cut into strips.
“Beef Jerky Ground and Formed or Chopped and Formed” is produced from ground or chopped meat, molded, and cut into strips. Beef Jerky containing binders or extenders must show true product name (e.g., “Beef and Soy Protein Concentrate Jerky, Ground and Formed”).
“Species (or Kind) Jerky Sausage” is the product has been chopped and may be dried at any stage of the process, and it is stuffed into casings.