Around the world, a huge variety of semi-processed and processed meat products with different taste characteristics have evolved over time. In some regions hundreds of different meat products exist with individual names and taste characteristics. Many of these products use similar processing technologies despite different tastes and shapes. These products can be categorized as follows:
Fresh processed meat products
These products consist of raw meat and fatty tissue. Spices, common salt and sometimes also binders are added. In low-cost versions extenders or fillers are added for volume extension. Products are marketed raw, but fried or cooked prior to consumption to make the products palatable. If the fresh meat mixes are filled in casings, they are defined as sausages. If other portioning is customary, the products are known as patties or kebabs. Typical fresh products are merguez, longganisa, bratwurst, breakfast sausage, burger or suflaki.
Cured meat cuts
Muscle pieces are used for these products which can be subdivided into cured-raw meats and cured-cooked meats. The curing process is similar for both groups. The meat is treated with small amounts of curing salt, either by simple dry-salting or by injecting and/or submerging in a curing salt solution. Cured-raw meats are not heat-treated and only subjected to curing, drying, fermentation and ripening. They are usually consumed raw. Typical products are Parma and Serrano ham. Cured-cooked meats always undergo heat treatment after a short curing process to achieve the desired palatability. Typical products are Virginia and sandwich ham.
Raw-cooked meat products
In this product group, the muscle meat, fat and non-meat ingredients are first processed raw by grinding, chopping and mixing. The resulting viscous batter is portioned in sausages or loaves and then subjected to heat treatment, which causes protein coagulation, a firm-elastic texture, palatability and some degree of bacterial stability. Sausages are usually cooked or steamed and, when stuffed in permeable casings, also hot-smoked. The loaves are usually baked. Typical products are mortadella, hotdogs, frankfurters, viennas and meat loaf.
Precooked-cooked meat products
Such products can contain mixes of lower-grade muscle trimmings, fatty tissues, head meat, animal skin, blood, liver and other edible parts. In general, two phases of heat treatment are involved in the manufacturing process. The first phase is the precooking of raw meat materials and the second phase the cooking of the final product mix. Precooked-cooked meat products utilize the greatest variety of meat, animal by-product and non-meat ingredients. Typical products are liver pates, blood sausages and corned beef.
Raw-fermented sausages consist of coarse mixtures of lean meats and fatty tissues combined with curing salt, sugars, spices and other non-meat ingredients and are usually stuffed into casings. They get their characteristic flavour, texture and colour through fermentation in combination with moisture reduction. The final products are not subjected to heat treatment and distributed and consumed raw. Typical products are chorizo and salami type summer sausages.
Dried meat products
These products are the result of simple drying of lean meat. Their processing is based on the experience that meat will not easily spoil when a substantial part of the natural tissue fluid is evaporated. Mostly pieces of lean meat are cut to a specific uniform shape that permits the gradual and equal drying of whole batches. Dried meat has a significantly longer shelf-life than fresh meat. The nutritional value of the protein content remains unchanged. Typical products are jerkey, biltong, charque, pastirma.