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Despite the recent advances in refrigeration and packaging technology, more traditional methods of meat preservation, such as salting and drying, continue to play an important role in the meat marketing structure of many of the world's less developed countries.

Controlled moisture products, prepared either directly by dehydration or indirectly by increasing extracellular osmotic pressure, as in the case of curing, may assume a renewed importance in coming years through the cumulative demands placed upon traditional commercial meat sales systems by an increasingly sophisticated and centralised industrial sector. The rapid turnover, within 24 hours, of fresh, unchilled meat supplied by municipal abattoirs for local consumption is not realisable where slaughter facilities are dislocated away from the individual centres of consumption to centralised or regional sites.

The problem becomes particularly acute where cold storage facilities in the retail sector are absent or deficient. Salted and semi-dried meat products which are popular in their own right, stand up better to the abuses of these distribution networks than their chilled or fresh meat, counterparts.

With careful control of the manufacturing process, a lightly salted and semi-dried product, with characteristics not dissimilar to that of fresh meat, might be expected to have a shelf life of 72–96 hours at ambient temperatures. Under similar conditions a salted and more fully dried product with specific textural and eating quality characteristics could be expected to have a useable life of 3–4 months without noticeable deterioration.

It is the flexibility in marketing which has made these products so valuable, particularly in those regions inaccesible for periods of the year because of communication difficulties; climatic abberations, where irregular slaughter patterns cause peaks and troughts in supply; where meat has to be transported from one region or village to another in abused conditions or where meat has to be supplied to regions lacking the basic infra structure to market a chilled or frozen product. The only alternative to the manufacture of controlled moisture meat is often the establishment of cold chains or animal stock routes which are costly and difficult to maintain. The present manual presents manufacturing procedures for the fabrication of two traditional Brazilian controlled moisture meat products, carne-de-sol and charque which are consumed in large quantities in the remoter and more impoverished regions of the country.

Although produced using similar procedures, the two products are quite different in terms of keeping qualities and are manufactured under diverse conditions. In the case of carne-de-sol, at the artesenal level with output levels seldom in excess of 1 000 kg per day. Whereas in the case of charque, at the industrial scale in factories capable of sustained daily volumes between 3–30 tonnes. Because of its limited keeping quality carne-de-sol is manufactured where it is consumed, whereas charque is produced in regions having an abundant supply of raw materials and transported to where it is needed. Historical and strategic reasons have led to these patterns of production but there is no reason why these two products should not be produced in the same premises and this publication explores that possibility.

In the case of a community or region having difficulty in securing regular supplies of fresh meat or where slaughter by necessity is seasonal, the establishment of a plant to manufacture charque and carne-de-sol would offer distinct commercial and marketing benefits.

It is envisaged that a “controlled moisture” meat plant would be furnished with raw materials from local slaughter establishments or from sources further afield should supply become limited.

The plant could be considered as a supply post; distributing fresh, lightly and fully dried meats according to the demand for these products and the day to day availability of raw materials. Since lightly salted products could be manufactured quickly according to projected needs, they might be used as a rapidly disposable stock in times of intermittent slaughter. Stocks of charque could be built up during periods of excess to cover those times when supply is curtailed.

In many respects, carne-de-sol and charque serve the same community needs in terms of retail sales flexibility as chilled and frozen meat. In the case of controlled moisture meats, however, the capital and energy costs involved in their fabrication and storage are far lower and hence their use, in less developed countries, more widespread.

Because lightly salted products such as carne-de-sol have almost identical characteristics after cooking to similarly prepared fresh meats, their acceptance presents few problems. Fully preserved meats such as charque, although distinctive in appearance and organoleptic characteristics, may be semi-reconstituted when properly prepared before cooking. In regions where they have been introduced because of the shortage of fresh meat, these dried products are demanded for their intrinsic qualities per se.

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