d. Thus evolved a major change in curing practices in the US. It is of historical
interest that the substance of the original BAI circular is still in effect today.
e. Originally, the primary reason meat was cured was to preserve it and extend
its storage life. The secondary reasons were to impart the flavors of the curing agents
as well as the flavors that developed through bacterial and enzymatic action during the
curing process, and to stabilize the color of the meats. Because pork has a relatively
high percentage of well-distributed fat, it is an ideal meat for curing and about 75
percent of all pork cuts are processed for cured products.
f. With the advent of efficient and widespread refrigeration, the need for
preserving meat by curing alone has greatly diminished, and factors such as flavor,
color, and yield have become of much greater relative importance than the amount of
preservation provided. To the technical minded person today, meat curing refers to the
production of the characteristic thermally stable meat pigment and the cured meat flavor
by the action of sodium nitrite and other curing agents. Less emphasis is given to the
preservation qualities of cured meats, even though preservation was the original
purpose of meat curing.
Modern methods of processing and distributing fresh meat do not require meat to
be packed in salt or to be air-dried, but because of the consumer's taste for salted meat
and the need for adequate shelf life, salt-cured and smoke-cured meats are still a major
part of the meat packing industry. Consequently, the veterinary food inspection
specialist must understand the fundamentals of salt-curing and smoking to adequately
inspect cured meats for contractual requirements. Salt-cured and smoked meats may
be divided into the following categories.
a. Salt-Cured. Salt-cured meat is meat cured by soaking in a salt brine or by
the application of dry salt, with or without sugar, spices, and nitrates.
b. Dry-Salt. Dry-salt meat is cured only by the application of dry salt, with or
without sugar, spices, and nitrates.
c. Pickle-Cured. Pickle-cured meat is meat cured by soaking it in a salt brine
with or without sugar, spices, and nitrates.
d. Sweet-Pickle-Cured. Meat that is sweet-pickle-cured is cured by soaking in
a salt brine containing a sweetening agent.
e. Smoked. Smoked meat is fresh, dried, or cured meat subjected to smoke
from hardwood fires.