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Organic alternatives to Conventional Celery Powder as a Meat Curing Agent

Sep 29, 2016
Photo Credit: Kim Ahlström

Photo Credit: Kim Ahlström

An OREI planning grant was awarded to the University of Wisconsin, with The Organic Center and The Organic Trade Association as collaborators, to help identify an organic alternative to conventional celery powder in curing organic meat and products.

Celery powder has been in use for over a decade as a “curing” agent in certain processed meat products as an alternative to sodium and potassium nitrate and nitrite. Since 2007, conventionally grown celery powder has been allowed for use in certified organic meat products. During this time, the organic processed meat industry as grown to an estimated $150 million. As the demand for organic processed meats increases, the organic industry wants to replace the use of conventional celery powder with an organic alternative.

The awarding of this grant reflects the involvement and hard work for over a year of the OTA National List Innovation Working Group, which was formed in 2015 to invest in research to identify and develop alternatives to inputs on the National Organic Program’s list of approved ingredients for certified organic products.

Photo Credit: Cahaba Club Micro Greens

Photo Credit: Cahaba Club Micro Greens

The first project of the National List Innovation Working Group was to look at the development of organically grown celery or other vegetables used in the curing of organic meat products. Celery powder is a key preservative in the curing of meats, but organic celery powder is not as effective in curing as non-organic celery powder. While organic stakeholders would like to remove non-organic celery powder from its toolbox, an appropriate alternative needs to be developed first.

The OREI-funded research will help identify potential varieties of organic crops that would meet the chemical specification needed for curing, while being easily incorporated into current crop rotation systems. It will also identify potential management protocols that need to be developed to achieve target nitrate levels in the curing crop in order to produce the required shelf life and prevent bacteria in the cured meat, and to produce the desired flavor, color and texture in food.


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