THIS is no old banger. The humble sausage has been given a healthy makeover by Scottish scientists who have developed a range of one of the country’s favourite foods with 20 per cent less salt content and 25 per cent less fat.
The scientists claim the sausages, created by the Food Innovation Team at Abertay University in Dundee, taste just as good as the real thing.
The healthy sausages, which are made using lean meat and a custom-made seasoning with a low salt content, are available in four unusual flavours – banana madras, halloumi cheese and roasted red pepper, leek and tomato, and Scotch bonnet.
They were made after the Extraordinary Sausage Company – founded by owner of T&R Skinner Cameron Skinner, a family butcher based in the village of Kippen, Stirlingshire – contacted the university to ask if it could help them meet the Scottish Government’s new recommendations for reducing the salt and fat content in meat products such as a fatty sausage.
Jonathan Wilkin, the senior food technologist at Food Innovation at Abertay University, said: “Sausages are traditionally quite high in both fat and salt, as this gives them a good taste and a long shelf-life.
“We had already identified that it was the base seasoning in Cameron’s sausages that was adding to the salt content, and worked with the seasoning company to help them lower the amount of salt in their products, without affecting the levels of preservatives and flavourings in them.”
He added: “Although it would have been possible to reduce the salt content of the sausages by simply reducing the amount of seasoning used in the recipe, we explained this would have the knock-on effect of lowering the amount of preservative within the sausages, which in turn would reduce their shelf-life – something that would affect his business.”
The team of scientists spent months experimenting on different methods in order to make a sausage that was healthier, but just as tasty as a normal banger. As well as using lean meat and lowering the salt content in the seasoning, they also increased the flavourings in the sausage, including pepper and paprika, and in the case of flavoured bangers such as Scotch bonnet, increased the spicy flavour, too.
He also said that they got rid of “all the bits and bobs” that normally go in sausages – usually offal.
“You can get low fat sausages in some of the supermarkets, but they taste terrible,” said Skinner, who even experimented with putting seaweed into a sausage at one point in an attempt to retain the salty flavour. “I was determined we were going to get something that tasted just as good, but was healthy.”
The university set up taste panels with members of the public to make sure they got the flavour right.
“We wanted to make sure that these changes still met with consumer approval, which they did,” he said. “Our modifications not only ticked all of Cameron’s boxes, but had the added bonus of reducing the cost of his raw materials as well.”
Skinner is now in talks with a number of supermarkets about stocking the sausages UK-wide.
He said: “The government has realised they are having to make small changes to encourage people to look after their health. Scotland has a growing rate of obesity and diabetes and they need to re-educate people. As a manufacturer we have to change with the times and be proactive. I have a responsibility and I want customers to know about sugar content and salt content, and what is going into the food I make.”
Last year, the Scottish Government and the Scottish Food and Drink Federation committed to a two-year partnership to support small businesses in reducing the salt, fat and sugar content of their products.
Minister for public health Michael Matheson said at the time: “It is really encouraging to see small businesses making their products healthier, crucially without impacting on sales. Simple updates to recipes or processes can make all the difference, often without much difference on taste.”
In 2010, the Kippen-based butcher unveiled a range of low fat Scotch pies, which had less salt and 20 per cent less fat than normal Scotch pies. It was unveiled at Hampden Park, where it is estimated that Scottish football fans eat about three million pies each season.
Abertay University will launch a new course in food and drink innovation next month. The course, an MProf, will teach students about the food industry.