I wanted to update you all that the oxidation problem with our sample batch, has been identified. With our last update, we mentioned this problem and the 3 steps were going to take to fix this problem: Oxygen absorbers, strict timelines, and quality checks. I wanted to continue in the spirit of 100% transparency with what we think went wrong.
A bottleneck in the cooking process forced us to freeze a portion of our pre-cut meat, which we think oxidized during thawing due to high surface area.
The old process that I knew was working well, involved me doing all the cutting myself. It was extremely time consuming and with meat that is not a good thing. I thought that we could save processing time and therefore exposure if the meat were pre-cut then shipped. So I was half right. It did save time; out of the 200lbs shipped to us, the 100lbs of meat I was able to safely cook fresh, turned out perfectly. However due to bottlenecks in the cooking process, I elected to freeze some of the meat. This was a mistake. The meat was in 5lb cryovac bags and had already been cut to the size I needed. The same meat, the same poundage, not cut, has a way slower enzymatic timetable as well as a much smaller surface area. These two problems of enzymatic activity and surface area affected approximately 20lbs of product. The product didn't smell differently during production nor in the final form (of which I sampled) but when sealed that oxidation odor built up in the final packaging. A further 80 lbs of product that was frozen in now unusable because of these concerns and will be discarded (which means I'm gonna eat it).
So previously, I've done as many as 50 full-size bars and processed all of them myself without any problems. This time I attempted to make 1000 bite-size bars, and every time we scale up production, new problems occur. One of the principal reasons we're on Kickstarter is so that we can get the equipment that will allow us to minimize such risks by processing batches more efficiently. Trying to make a product without stabilizers exposes us to these risks in ways that no other product is likely to face. This is an ancient food but scaling it up safely without additives is a new technological feat.
There are good reasons there isn't shelf stable pemmican for sale. And why I make the claim that this product is different in key ways:
- The first is timetables and shelf life: Preservatives give so much freedom in the processing timeline. There are many options that open up to a manufacturer by having a product that isn't so vulnerable to oxygen, is always homogeneous, and doesn't fall out of solution at temperature. These are only a few of the reasons that all our modern food has additives. These manufacturers aren't trying to make you feel sick. These additives solve functional problems that kick you in the teeth when you take them away. Each unpronounceable chemical added to your food does something important. Each one you take away adds hours of headaches to the person trying to figure out how to make that product. Taking away all of them simultaneously is gutsy. We're betting that people want this product badly enough that they'll stand by us during the inevitable struggle. We believe in this product and we hope you will too.
- The second is texture and solidity: Just getting a consistent, heat-stable product at room temperature is a challenge unto itself. Most pemmican is either crumbly or soft like play-dough. The making of pemmican is highly variable, and some of the low carb/Carnivore community will tell you what great lengths they've gone to get their recipe just right. But the commonality of their stories is this: you need a Carnivore friendly travel food, and there isn't any.
- The third is that it's too expensive, too risky, and the profit margins are thin: Basically only a psychopath or someone who depended on this food to live, would even attempt the creation of such a product. It's totally up to you to judge which one I am.
So the process is still valid and effective, but the challenges remain substantive. Every change that's made to the process needs to be tested and re-evaluated before we open for distribution. Ultimately we are really glad we did samples early in the process; that has allowed us to identify problems and make corrections before scaling up.
Thank you all for supporting this endeavor.
- Phillip Meece
This originally appeared on Kickstarter.