Fresh sausages are one of the most popular types of processed meat. Fresh sausage is available in a wide variety of flavors and styles. Traditional fresh favorites include pork sausage, Italian sausage, bratwurst, bockwurst and chorizo. There is also the opportunity to include different cheeses in fresh sausage — perhaps even some fruits, vegetables or nuts. Let your imagination run wild. You may be pleasantly surprised at your results.

Fresh sausage may be processed in bulk, patties or links. It is marketed either refrigerated or frozen. It can be used as an appetizer, entrée, on a sandwich or as a component of a casserole or sauce. Fresh sausages are eaten at breakfast, lunch and dinner. The versatility of fresh sausages make them a perennial favorite.

Manufacturing procedure

When manufacturing fresh sausage we have four overall objectives.

  • Achieve good particle definition
  • Achieve good distribution of the fat and lean
  • Achieve good distribution of the nonmeat ingredients
  • Minimize protein extraction

Fresh sausage may be comminuted (fancy word for reduction of particle size) by using a grinder, flaker or bowl chopper, but the most common method of comminution for fresh sausage is the use of a grinder. Fresh sausage can be manufactured from all varieties of meat including pork, beef, chicken, turkey and lamb.

When manufacturing fresh pork sausages, processors often will target for 35 percent fat in the raw meat block. This is the percentage of fat on a raw basis. It will be considerably less on an “as consumed” basis. If the fat content is too low, the product will be dry and lack flavor and juiciness after cooking.

Fresh pork sausages can be manufactured using a single grind; however, when only a single grind is used, the connective tissue and gristle often are not cut enough to make them unobjectionable in the finished product. Typically, a two-grind system is used. The first grind typically will be with a 1/2-inch or 3/8-inch plate and the final grind with a 3/16-inch or 5/32-inch plate. Particle definition is defined as the ability to see distinct particles of fat and lean. A product that lacks particle definition has a smeared or mushy appearance. Cold meats, with a temperature of 30 to 32 degrees F, will grind much better than warm meats, at 38 to 40 degrees F. Either tissue from market hogs or sows can be used to manufacture fresh pork sausages.

Typically during manufacture fresh sausages are mixed between the first and second grind. The purpose of mixing is to achieve good distribution of the fat and lean in addition to achieving good distribution of the nonmeat ingredients. Overmixing can result in excess extraction of protein which results in the cooked product having a rubbery texture. You can take two batches of fresh pork sausage and mix the first batch one minute and the other batch 10 minutes and the texture of the cooked product will be very different in the two batches.

When you develop a manufacturing procedure that yields a product with characteristics you find highly desirable, follow that procedure closely each time you make the product. Remember: The No. 1 way to generate repeat sales is to produce a consistent product.

Learn more at Process Expo

Dr. Joe Cordray is the Extension Meat Specialist at Iowa State University. He will deliver a presentation on manufacturing fresh sausage as part of PROCESS EXPO U at PROCESS EXPO, which will take place in Chicago’s McCormick Place convention center Sept. 15-18. Readers can visit to register for the show.