There are many different methods of meat preservation, from drying to salt curing to adding sugar to preserve it. The purpose of meat preservation is to add to the length of time that meat is fresh, healthy, and bacteria free for human consumption. Meat is preserved using many different processes. The process a specific meat is preserved under is largely determined by what the meat will be used for when it is consumed. Whatever the process, meat preservation is in place to save those who consume the meat from contracting food-borne diseases.
The most important part of any meat preservation process is to ensure that no nutrients are lost. Of course, preserving taste and texture is an important factor as well. The specific meat preservation process chosen for any type of meat is most often determined by the purpose for which the meat will be used once it has been preserved. For example, drying beef would not be a good process for meat that would be intended to be used for grilling. Dried meat would be better served when planning the meat to be eaten without the cooking process or as a part of a chipped beef recipe, for example.
Meat preservation not only adds to the life of the meat, but in certain preservation processes flavor is added as well. For example, smoking a piece of meat to preserve it lends a quality of richness that a meat that has not been smoked will not have. Smoked bacon is enjoyed by many and chosen simply because of its taste. Different types of woods add different flavors to the meat. Preserving meat with salt and spices will also tend to enhance the flavor of the meat.
The oldest method of meat preservation is drying. Warm air with an approximate level of 30-percent humidity is optimum for meat drying. The first day meat is set to dry will be the day when the most water loss will occur. Following that, water will continue to diminish, just at a much slower rate. Meat preservation using the drying process greatly diminishes the weight and mass of the meat, as most of this comes from the presence of water.
Meat preservation, also known as curing, includes the process of adding flavorings and spices, which in turn preserve the meat. Sausage making is one example of meat preservation that began as a process whose sole purpose was to have meat last longer and taste better once it was consumed. Curing meat can also be done using the chemicals nitrate and nitrite. These bacteria killers also provide flavor and color to meat that will not be consumed the day that it is harvested from an animal.