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Troubleshooting Guide – Fermented Meats



Problem Possible Cause
Slow Fermentation Frozen culture allowed to thaw and subsequently held too long before dispensing into meat.
Microorganisms exhaust nutrients and can reduce pH, lowering culture ‘activity’.
Environmental temperatures/humidity (min. 80%) during fermentation inconsistent with recommended culture optimum.
Secondary growth in meat of contaminant microorganism producing end-product that buffers pH drop.
Lay down procedure at cold temperature resulting in extended lag phase at beginning of fermentation cycle.
Dairy in product may contain phosphate which buffers pH drop; also has tendency to absorb moisture from surrounding meat, particular to processed cheese due to phosphate ingredient: High sugar content.
Sausage entering smokehouse colder than normal, i.e. using frozen meat.
Spice formulation adjustment that either decreases acid stimulation or inhibits culture.
Excessive salt or cure addition.
Culture contact directly with curing components.
High fat formulation, reducing moisture content.
Larger diameter product, slower heat transfer.
Rapid moisture loss in product.
Fast Fermentation Temperature/humidity higher than normal.
Spice formulation adjustment flavouring culture, (Black Pepper)
Excessive water addition.
Product delayed prior to entering house, resulting in higher initial temperature/more time
Leaner product, i.e. more moisture.
Pork containing product.
Smaller diameter product processed at higher humidity. Keep high humidity as smaller sausages dry out faster.
Initial meat pH lower than normal.
Inconsistent Fermentation Inadequate culture distribution, resulting in “hot” and “cold” spots in meat mixture.
Inadequate distribution of salt, cure, spices dextrose.
Lay down procedure that causes some “Batter” to dry out.
Diverse initial product temperatures.
“Laid down” product and directly processed product in same smokehouse; culture “acclimation” in laid down product resulting in faster fermentation.
Product with different spice formulations, meat components, casing diameters.
Uneven temperature/humidity in fermentation chamber.
Uneven humidity in dry room causing different drying rates.
Too low pH Failure to monitor fermentation.
Excessive carbohydrate source.
No Fermentation Culture not added.
Culture inactivated by direct contact with salt, cure, components, or heavily chlorinated diluent water.
Non-compliance with recommended handling temperatures after thawing.
Insufficient carbohydrate added to sausage mixture.
Excessive salt content.
Antibacterial agents added to meat mixture (i.e. preservatives, chemical boiler treatments via steam, antibiotics in meat).
“Mushy” Product Over-working at mixer, chopper or grinder.
Excessive fat content.
Insufficient salt level or no salt added.
Spoiled raw materials.
Proteolytic microbial contaminates.
Insufficient moisture loss excessive humidity.
Excessive air speed and/or too low a humidity, “sealing” surface pores. No moisture migration from product.
Excessive smoke initially that coagulates surface proteins, retarding moisture migration.
Souring of Product, Post-processing Insufficient heat treatment to destroy microorganisms, Post-processing residual post-processing carbohydrates in excess that permits secondary fermentation.
Excessive moisture and residual carbohydrates in non-cooked product.
Insufficient drying.
Temperature abuse post-packaging.
Microbial contaminant either growing during fermentation or post-packaging.
Use of spoiled raw meat materials.
Poor sanitation post-processing.
Chemical contaminant.
Slimy, Gassy Product Yeast or hetero-lactic contamination in packaging post processing.
Excessive moisture content.
Inadequate smoke concentration at product surface (i.e. semi-dry products).
Green or Grey Colouration Insufficient cure level or heat.
Oxidation of meat pigments via microbial contaminant, Metal contaminants.
Exposure to sunlight.
High pH.
Excessive Mold Growth Excessive heating rate.
Excessive fermentation temperature.
Unstable meat batter, low-binding meats.
Overworked raw meat mix.
Case Hardening Product is being dried too quickly in the initial stages of fermentation causing a ring of dry meat next to the casing. This ring does not allow the internal mass of meat to dry, as moisture cannot permeate the dry ring. The solution is to increase the humidity to 93-95% in extreme cases, or simply to 80% to correct the problem.
Extreme case hardening might necessitate cooking the product and sale as a distressed product.
Fermentation Failure Culture solution not added.
Insufficient sugar addition
Culture solution added too soon on top of salt and/or cure.
Culture solution allowed to sit too long at room temperature.
Expired Culture
Culture allowed to thaw too long
Culture added to wine
Antibiotics in meat
Too long a lag time from emulsion to smokehouse or fermentation room
Product Does Not Dry Poor fermentation
Improper drying room R.H.
Meats over worked to form an emulsion.