South America camelids are receiving increased interest not only in South America but also on a worldwide scale. The domesticated species alpacas and llamas are raised for wool, milk and meat. They possess some unique features such as their fiber and healthy meat, and their high adaptively to many climatic regions such as the Andean plateau. Recently, the importance of llamas has increased because their meat is source of protein for the Andean population. To study the microbiology of this product we have created a network of European and Latin American institutions based on complementary competences between partners with the aim:
-To exploit new scientific capacities for the study of traditional fermented foods
-To transfer results from the research in novel multifunctional starter cultures and improve
technologies for food safety and quality
-To have an impact on the consumer protection and on the trade opportunities by the compliance of
the EU criteria and regulation for food safety.
Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore - ItalyLead applicant
Reference center for Lactobacillus - ArgentinaInitiative partner
National Autonomous University of Mexico - MexicoInitiative partner
Llama sausages: a good safe alternative to traditional meat-products
The project has focused on the study of fermented Llama meat sausages as a product manufactured on small-scale in isolated areas of Argentina regions. The importance of llama (Lama glama) meat has increased due to its high protein nutritional value and reduced fat and cholesterol contents. Also, the production of fermented llama meat sausages may contribute to the regional economy development. To increase the knowledge on the safety and quality of these fermented sausages the microbial communities from fermented llama sausages were analyzed by microbiological and molecular approaches. This study demonstrated that fermented llama sausages displayed good hygienic quality. The isolated microrganisms will be further analyzed to design a starter culture to shorten the ripening period and improve the quality of the fermented llama sausages.
Recently, the importance of llamas has increased because their meat is an important source of protein for the Andean population. Llama herds’ numbers in the north-western region of Argentina have increased in the last years, reaching a number of near 170.000 animals. The llama is primarily a beast of burden, but is also used as a source of food and wool and its ability to subsist in the extreme conditions of the bleak Andean plateau (high plains at 3000-4000 m above sea level) makes them an important economical factor for local development. Increasing llama meat production and improving their breeding systems represents a good strategy to fight against poverty in the South American populations living in Andean countries. Beside this humanitarian purpose, llama meat are actually highly interesting for consumers coming from developed countries, considering the nutritional value of these meats, mainly due to their reduced fat and cholesterol contents.
The study and revalorization of this meat product contributed to increase our knowledge about the microbial composition and fermentation process of this food in order to consieder llama meat as a more healthy alternative to red meat choice. Results reported from muscle analysis of llama reared in the Andean highlands indicated a low fat (3.5%) and cholesterol (56 mg/100g) content, as well as a fatty acid composition of 50% saturated fatty acids, 42.5% monounsaturated fatty acids and 7.2% polyunsaturated fatty acids. This makes Historically, llama meat products were restricted to dehydrated meat (jerky), however an increased variety of different fermented and non-fermented products are being commercialized. Moreover results from the research have been transferred in improved technologies for food safety and quality, having an impact on the consumer protection and on the trade opportunities of this product by local producers.
The scientific and technological knowledge arising from this traditional fermented product studied in this project constitute the most important profit of this work. In order to balance the benefits among the participants in this project, knowledge sharing should be based on a reciprocal relationship and/or agreement of each individual researcher and the artisanal food producer .
The increase knowledge on the fermentation microbiota (including possibly pathogens) involved in the production of this fermented products provide a clear figure of the complex microbial associations and contribute to increase the knowledge on natural food fermentations. The results of this project made possible new or improved sustainable and environmental friendly processes.
A total of 30 people comprising early researchers, experience researchers, management staff from each participant institutions have been involved in this project. Food producers from Abra Pampa (Jujuy region), kindly partecipated in proveding samples. The scientific team was composed particularly by food microbiologists,chemists and biologists.
The Management Team includes the head scientists of each organizations taking part at the project; the Coordinator of the project was a Chair Professor of Food Microbiology (Prof. Pier Sandro Cocconcelli) while the managers of each research unit were all Professors of Food Microbiology or
Senior Researchers in the field of molecular microbiology or food science (Rosa Aznar, Carme Wacher, Atte Von Wright, Graciela Vignolo, Carmela Belloch).
The main obstacle in this work was to access to the sausages producers due to the fact that this is a family activity. On the other hand, camelids husbandry and their meat have not an appropriate legislation that regulate the activity to date, so they have not structured slaughterhouses for federal transit and / or export. Those limited the number of breeding animals per field to shrink their market only to the province of Jujuy
This project had no particular impact on the environmental resources.
This experience allowed to establish a microbial culture collection of at least 1000 characterized microbial strains maintained in at least two different institutions, in order to preserve the microbial biodiversity and provide the biological bank for the selection of new strains for safe and successful food fermentation.This project constitute a model of mutual knowledge generation by creating a discussion space where food science experts, artisanal producers from Latin American countries, and experts of consumer behavior can originate strategies to widen trade opportunities for high quality and safe food produced in the developing countries. The study of fermentation process serve as functional model for other international cooperation on traditional food.
The main goals of the project have been disseminated mainly through web-based solutions (website), internal and international congresses/workshops and seminars/meetings among local producers and partners of the project. This project has adopted a plan to extend the excellence and disseminate the knowledge within and outside the project with particular attention also to food consumers in both EU and Latin America.