Old World Tradition Meets New World Expertise.


Manufacture of Fresh Pork Sausage

Jay B. Wenther, Ph.D.
American Association Of Meat Processors

Fresh pork sausage comprises the vast majority of fresh sausage produced throughout the world, whether it be in bulk, link, or patty form.  Fresh pork sausage is usually considered to be the third most popular processed meat product outranked only by wieners and bologna.  Pork sausage can be manufactured from chilled meat, either trimmings from primal cuts or entire carcasses, or hot processed meat.  The following discussion will relate to the manufacture of fresh pork sausage from chilled meats.

When making pork sausage always select raw materials that are in good condition.  Meats should be kept chilled at 34°F or lower until the time of manufacture.  If entire carcasses are to be used for sausage raw materials, chill the carcasses to below 40°F before boning (temperature of carcass should be checked by getting the internal temperature of the ham).  Make sure all equipment used in manufacturing pork sausage has been thoroughly washed and sanitized prior to its use.  Remember that meat is an excellant medium for microbial growth.  Extra care and effort during manufacturing will pay the dividends of a superior product with an increased shelf life.

Pork sausage should be juicy but not greasy when consumed.  In order to achieve this, a fat content of 35-40% in the uncooked pork sausage is considered very desirable.  If the pork sausage is too lean it will have a tendency to be tough and if it is too fat it will have a tendency to taste greasy and to shrink excessively when cooked.  Any combination of pork skeletal meats can be used to produce an excellent sausage as long as the fat content is maintained in the 35-40% range.

I recommend a two grind system for the manufacture of fresh pork sausage.  The meats should first be ground through a 3/4″ plate.  After coarse grinding, transfer the meat to a mixer.  Turn the mixer on and evenly distribute the seasonings over the meat as it is mixing.  Total mixing time should be 1-2 minutes.

Excessive mixing, 5-10 minutes, can result in a product that has a tough and rubbery texture and a smeared appearance.  Length of mixing is a very critical step in pork sausage manufacture.  When you have determined the optimum mixing time for your fresh pork sausage, mix every batch the same length of time.  Don’t mix one batch of sausage for one minute and the next batch for five minutes as this will cause your product to be inconsistent in texture and appearance.

Three percent water may be added during blending to facilitate mixing.  If you are having trouble keeping the temperature down during manufacturing you may elect to add the water in the form of ice.  If you do add the 3% water, make sure that it is listed in your ingredient statement and that the water is high quality and free of contamination.

After mixing, the pork sausage should be reground through a 5/32″ or 3/16″ plate.  Following final grinding the sausage is ready to be packaged and returned to the cooler awaiting sale.  The meat should be kept cold during the manufacturing process and at no time should the temperature be allowed to rise above 40°F.

Fresh sausage can be prepared in a silent cutter and usually has a slightly brighter color that is retained longer, however, the chopper has no effective means of screening out bone or cartilage chips that were missed in the boning operation.

Two common complaints with fresh pork sausage are inconsistency in flavor and lack of particle definiton.  When an inconsistent batch of sausage is sampled for flavor, one patty may have an excellent flavor while the next patty is usually the result of poor distribution of the seasonings throughout the meat.  This problem can usually be corrected by sprinkling the seasonings evenly over the meat while it is mixing rather than adding it all in one pile, and by slightly increasing mixing time.  If the sausage will be mixed by hand between the coarse grind and the final grind, the seasonings should be spread over chunks of meat before they are coarse ground.  This will aid in achieving a more even distribution of the seasonings throughout the meat.

When you can’t see definite particles of fat and lean in fresh sausage that product lacks particle definition.  A product without particle definition has a smeared appearance.  Lack of particle definition usually occurs when sausage is over mixed, badly worn knives and plates are used in the grinder, or the temperature of the meat is too warm (above 40°F).  Knives and plates should be checked frequently and replaced when they show signs of excessive wear.  A little extra attention to your grinder plates and knives will often improve the appearance of your fresh pork sausage.

Pork sausage is a poular item in most parts of the country.  If it is properly manufactured it should be a moneymaker for the processor and a product that the consumer will enjoy.

Most recently, fresh turkey sausage has emerged on the marketplace and appears to have established a steadily growing market share.  Fresh turkey sausage is generally made from the boneless drumsticks, mechanically  seperated turkey meat, and (or) miscellaneous trimmings from the boning lines.

The term pork sausage generally means the ground and seasoned fresh pork product.  There is however, several kinds or “styles” of fresh pork sausage that differ in texture, seasoning, and meat content.

Country-Style Sausage

Country-Style usually contains from 10 to 20% of beef ground with the fresh pork; it is coarsely ground, with the 3/16″ plate, and does not contain sage as a seasoning.  It is stuffed into natural hog casings or collagen casings of different sizes and is unlinked.  It is also sold in bulk (i.e., unstuffed)

Breakfast-Style Sausage

Breakfast-Style is an all-pork sausage that is finely ground and seasoned with sage, salt, and pepper.  It is stuffed into narrow to medium sheep casings, narrow hog casings, or collagen casings, which are then linked to make the various-sized sausages.

Whole Hog Sausage

Whole hog sausage is sausage prepared with fresh and (or) frozen pork meat in such proportions as are normal for a single animal and may be seasoned with condiments as permitted in any sausage product.  It cannot be made with any lot of product which, in the aggregate, contains more than 50% trimmable fat, that is, fat which can be removed by thorough practicable trimming and sorting.  To facilitate chopping or mixing, water or ice may be used in an amount not to excess 3% of the total ingredients used.

Modern whole hog sausage is made from 240 to 250lb butcher hogs.  Depending on the fatness (grade) of the hogs, the leaf fat may be pulled out of the raw material for sausage or, conversely, certain lean muscles (ham, loin, tenderloin) may be pulled out if the hogs are too lean.  Of course, the carcasses must be boned out before being ground into sausage.

Pre-Rigor Fresh Pork Sausage

“Pre-Rigor sausage” or “whole hog” pork sausage are names for fresh pork sausage made from pork carcasses immediately (within one hour) after slaughter.  Hot boning allows the processor to salt the meat before the muscle has gone into rigor mortis.  This keeps the muscle pH from falling as low as it would normally, thus improving the water-holding capacity and keeping the color darker.  Both of the properties are advantageous in sausage production.

While it is not necessary to use the entire carcass, the advantages of using the meat very quickly are quite important.  As muscle goes into rigor, chemical changes occur which lead to lesser moisture and color retention in meat products that are subsequently manufactured.  By using muscle immediately after slaughter (in the pre-rigor form), the changes are minimized and an excellant fresh pork sausage is the result.

One concern for the process however is the fact that pre-rigor meat is not chilled.  High temperatures are likely to lead to spoilage problems.  A critical part of the pre-rigor process is to quickly chill after the muscle has been ground and while it is being mixed with the spices.  This achieves spoilage control while retaining the advantages of pre-rigor meat.


Joe Cordray, Ph.D.
Extension Meat Specialists
Iowa State University
Department of Animal Science

The Meat We Eat 2001 – 14th Edition
Interstate Publishers, Inc.
Romans JR, Jones KW, Costello WJ,
Carlson CW, Siegler PT.
Danville, IL 61834