The company has developed cultures that can suppress the growth of bacteria in processed meat, extending its shelflife for up to one year. Robin Liu, technical sales manager for meat and prepared food at Chr. Hansen's China branch, discussed the benefits of the cultures at the China International Meat Congress in Beijing yesterday. According to Liu, meat snacks will be the next trend in meat consumption in China. Already popular in Europe, these products have a product-life between that of fresh meat, which is at the most one week, and beef jerky, which can be as long as two years. The snacks can be packaged in small plastic bags and consumed like chips or jelly. Chr. Hansen's cultures, a mixture of lactobacillus and pediococcus, stop the growth of harmful bacteria by decreasing the pH value of meat to lower than 5, where they can no longer survive. They also preserve the water content, making the snacks a distinctive product from beef jerky, and also from sausages which has a lower water activity at 6.5 compared with 8.5 for the new snack products. Liu estimated that the cost for making this kind of meat snack is relatively low, because 30 per cent of the raw materials are fat, which is cheaper than lean meat, and the cultures will cost less than 2 yuan for each kilogram of the final product. Around 1.5 million tons of meat snacks were consumed in Europe last year but to date the category has not been found in China. Currently less than 10 per cent of meat in China is sold as processed meat although this is changing as the rising number of urban consumers look for more convenient eating options. Two of the country's biggest meat processors, the Shineway Group and Yurun Food, are working with Chr. Hansen to develop new products.