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Understanding the

theory and practice of

meat content calculations
or many companies meat con- 3.50 respectively. Although this gen-
tent analyses are part of every- erally applies for meat and meat
day life. They usually do this to products that are mainly or wholly
confirm the declarations their prod- made up of meat, further correc-
ucts have on their labels, but what tions must be applied to more com-
does meat content actually mean? plex meat products, such as burgers
For many years the gold standard and sausages, which often have sig-
was, and still is, the Stubbs & More nificant sources of non-meat nitro-
method that is used to calculate gen.
meat content from analytical data.
Nowadays in the EU, the Type of Nitrogen
Commission Directive 2001/101 meat factor
introduces a new definition of meat
for labelling purposes in the EU that Lamb 3.50
restricts the amount of fat and con- Mutton 3.47
nective tissue that can be included as Beef 3.65
meat when the word meat or a Veal 3.35
species name such as pork is in the Pork general 3.50
declared list of ingredients. After the analytical work has been applying standard correction factors Turkey whole 3.65
Typically meat is analysed for undertaken calculations are then to determine the Apparent Fat Free Chicken whole with skin 3.50
nitrogen (protein), fat, ash, water, done to define things such as Added Meat Content. This can then be Table 2. Nitrogen factors.
carbohydrate, salt and connective Water Content, Apparent Total converted to the Apparent Total
tissue content (collagen). Sometimes Meat Content and Apparent EC Meat Content by applying an The starting point of any analysis
in meat products soya protein is Meat Content. Table 1 defines these allowance for fat. for meat content involves an analysis
assayed for. On other occasions and some other terms that are used. This approach can also be modi- of the product for moisture, ash, fat
qualitative identification is required The basic method of meat calcula- fied to take into account the pres- and nitrogen contents. There are
(for example, kidney, heart, cereal, tion (the Stubbs and More method) ence of further more complex then two stages to calculating meat
soya etc) and meat speciation is has changed little in almost a cen- ingredients such as soya which con- content. First, the nitrogen level is
sometimes also undertaken. Most of tury. It is done by measuring the tribute to the nitrogen component, used to calculate the Apparent Fat
these tests have their own ISOs. amount of nitrogen present and but not to the meat protein compo- Free Meat Content by applying the
nent, of the product. appropriate Nitrogen Factor (a).
Table 1. Meat definitions. However, it should be noted that, To get the Apparent Total Meat
although Nitrogen Factors are avail-Content the level of fat is then
Added Water Content The amount left after meat content, salt able for many meats, there are no added (b).
content, sugar content and the content of other a
ingredients has been deducted % Total Nitrogen x 100
% Apparent Fat Free Meat Content =
Nitrogen Factor
Total Nitrogen The total amount of nitrogen present
irrespective of its source which may be meat or b
non-meat such as vegetables. % Apparent Total Meat Content = % Apparent Fat Free Meat Content + % Fat
Non-Meat Nitrogen Nitrogen present in product that is derived
from non-meat sources universally accepted Nitrogen For whole meat, the total of the
Factors available for cooked, cured key components (% fat, % protein,
Apparent Total The estimate of total meat content by or processed meats as its content % water and % ash) should be very
Meat Content calculations based on the obtained analytical data. can vary and so the meat contents close to 100% with most analysts
There is no correction for excess connective of these are best expressed as working to 1002%.
tissue or fat. apparent or raw meat equivalent Typically, meat proteins contain
Apparent Total Fat- The meat content excluding any fat that is contents. 16% nitrogen, so, a factor of 6.25
Free Meat Content present in the product. Obtained by using The most widely accepted nitro- (100/16) can be used to convert
nitrogen factors that have been derived on a fat gen factors are shown in Table 2. nitrogen content on analysis into
free basis Nitrogen factors are the average protein content. However, some of
nitrogen content for the fat free the nitrogen in a meat product may
Apparent EC Meat Estimate of meat content derived from meats and, as such, represent a not be meat derived and is known
Content calculation based on results of product analysis. range of values and not a single as Non Meat Nitrogen. If we do not
This includes restrictions on the amount of exact value. For some meats more take this into account, the meat con-
connective tissue and fat that may be allowed for specific values are available for spe- tent will be overvalued.
labelling purposes. cific cuts. For example pork in gen- Soya is often used in meat prod-
eral has a Nitrogen Factor of 3.50, ucts and is rich in protein which will
If there is no excess connective tissue or fat the
Apparent EC Meat Content has the same value as Apparent Total Meat Content whereas neck, leg, loin and belly contribute to the Non Meat
have values of 3.38, 3.49, 3.66 and Continued on page 12

International Meat Topics Volume 1 Number 2 11

Continued from page 11 components such as soya protein
Nitrogen. If we know the content of and nitrogen from carbohydrates,
soya protein, then we can deter- but it should be remembered that
mine its contribution to the Non soya protein will contribute to both
Meat Nitrogen (c). of these the actual protein to the
In products, such as burgers and former figure and the soya carbohy-
sausages, non-meat fillers, such as drate to the latter figure.
c In manufactured products, as in
% Nitrogen = % Soya protein meats, the % Apparent Total Meat
6.25 Content is % Apparent Fat Free
Meat Content plus % Fat. However,
rusk, are used. In such cases, the from a legislative view it may not be
amount of nitrogen contributed possible to count all of the fat
from the non-meat source is consid- towards the Apparent Total Meat
ered to be a fixed proportion of the Content (f).
carbohydrate content of that mater- f
ial. % Apparent 100
The carbohydrate content is nor- Fat Free Meat 100 A
mally calculated by difference and is
100 less water, fat, protein and ash Where A is 30, for pork, 25 for
contents. Rusk has a Nitrogen other mammalian meats and it is 15
Factor of 2.0 (d). for poultry.
Having ascertained the various In an EU context, lean meat con- tent in lean meat. For example, the the connective tissue in terms of the
Non Meat Nitrogens we can then tent is no longer referred to by legis- lean meat from pork can naturally ratio between collagen content,
contain <5 to >12% fat. Lean meat which is defined as hydroxyproline
d contains some fat so, historically, content x 8, and meat protein con-
% Non Meat Nitrogen in rusk % Carbohydrate x 2.0 this was assumed to be 10% and this tent.
100 was taken into account by multiply- Hydroxyproline is an amino acid
= % Carbohydrate x 0.02 ing the Apparent Fat Free Meat which is present in animal protein
Content by 0.9. collagen.
go on to calculate the Apparent Fat lation and, therefore, has no legal The Apparent Total Meat Content This then brings us to Connective
Free Meat Content (e). basis. This is because it is not possi- of a product can be >100% and this Tissue Free Fat Free Meat Content
In this equation the Non Meat ble to determine lean meat content arises by cooking or some other which can be defined as shown (g).
Nitrogen can have one or more because of the variability of fat con- g
e % Total Nitrogen (% Carbohydrate Nitrogen + soya Nitrogen +
% Apparent Connective Tissue Nitrogen etc) x 100
% Total Nitrogen - % Non Meat Nitrogen
Fat Free = Appropriate species Nitrogen Factor
Nitrogen Factor for appropriate meat type
Meat Content
process which has removed mois- This can then ultimately be used to
ture from the meat. For example, calculate the amount of connective
some continental sausages can have tissue which is not counted as meat.
apparent meat contents as high as Hopefully all of the connective tissue
175%. Even good old roast beef can be accounted for by the meat
often has an equivalent meat con- unless bulking products such as skin
tent of >120%! have been used which often need to
The EC Directive referred to ear- be declared.
lier also restricts the amount of con- Alternatively, whether connective
nective tissue that is allowed to be tissue is in excess can be calculated
present in meat destined for use in by reference to the collagen/protein
meat products. ratio which is the means used by the
In most mammalian meats this is EC Directive to define the limit for
25% but for poultry (and rabbits) it connective tissue allowed in a spe-
is just 15%. This Directive defines cific product type (h).
Connective % Collagen % Hydroxyproline x 8
= =
Tissue Content % Meat Protein % Meat Protein

12 International Meat Topics Volume 1 Number 2