Hamming It Up with Sysco QA

Traditional hams come from the hind leg of a hog. When a ham comes from the front leg, it will be designated as a pork shoulder picnic ham. Whether from the front leg or the back, hams are sold bone-in or boneless and are most frequently found fresh, cured or cured-and-smoked.

Fresh hams are uncooked and must be cooked before consumption.

Cured hams are first injected with a brine consisting of salt, sugar, sodium nitrite or celery powder, water and other seasonings.

Cured-and-smoked hams, as the name implies, are cured first and then cooked in a smokehouse until the desired flavor profile is reached.

Sysco Block and Barrel hams are available in a range of styles and types, such as buffet-style hams that are traditionally sliced thinly for sandwiches, and “D” shaped hams are that used for breakfast steaks and entrées.

To ensure that Sysco’s Block and Barrel brand hams maintain the highest quality standards, a Program Quality Manager (PQM) oversees thorough food safety and quality programs designed to reduce food safety risk and optimize quality performance. This plan includes product specifications, Listeria control requirements and an ongoing process control reporting system. Additionally, the PQM conducts food safety and quality system assessments during plant visits to Sysco-approved manufacturing facilities to ensure compliance.

Quality Assurance (QA) specifications for Sysco hams identify the important product quality attributes that affect customer performance. Regular quality audits are conducted by experienced Sysco QA field specialists to ensure that Sysco hams meet these exacting specs. Hams are evaluated for smoke color uniformity, weight control and quality defects such as fat cover, fat pockets, voids, cracks, bruises or bloodshot areas, and the presence of PSE (Pale, Soft, Exudative) pork. These defects impact product quality and performance in many meaningful ways. For example, PSE muscle has a slightly lower pH. This results in a lower water binding and cure reaction capacity, leading to ham slices with soft, soggy and lighter-colored areas. The root cause of PSE muscle has been linked to genetics and the stress level of the animal immediately preceding harvest.

Because Sysco strives for perfect performance, a statistically valid lot inspection is completed on all production runs. Hams that do not pass this lot inspection don’t make the Sysco grade.

Sysco’s Program Quality Manager reviews all of the monitoring and compliance data, and works with the manufacturing facilities to maintain consistent quality across all Block and Barrel ham products.

With Sysco’s Quality Assurance requirements in place, customers can rest assured that Block and Barrel hams meet the highest standards for safety, quality, appearance and flavor.

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