Frequently Asked Questions

Pasteurization is a process during which mild heat is used to reduce the sporulation phase of microorganisms and to destroy all pathogens. It is used mostly in the food and milk industry. It was developed by the French physician Louis Pasteur and was named after him.

Pasteurization also aims to prolong the life expectancy of a product, by reducing the number of pathogens that can cause it to spoil. Immediately after heat treatment, the product must be cooled and packaged. Pasteurization is achieved by heat treatment at 72ºC for 10 minutes, while ultra pasteurization is achieved by heat treatment at 132ºC for at least 1 second.

Double or second pasteurization is a mild heat treatment of an already packaged product under specific conditions and is done in order to render inert any microorganisms that may have developed in the product from the stage of initial pasteurization until final packaging.

This innovative technology of double pasteurization increases the product's shelf life and keeps the taste and nutritional characteristics of cured meat unspoilt until the expiration date indicated and for 4 days after the packaging has been opened (if kept at 0- 4ºC). As a result, consumers never have to throw away a single slice.

Consumers with gluten intolerance who were ruling out cured meat from their diet can now choose from a wide, tasty selection of specially designed gluten-free products.

We make sure that our products do not contain any gluten by replacing wheat starch with potato starch. Wheat starch is a cold meat ingredient that aggravates coeliac disease. This ingredient was replaced by NIKAS, which was the first company in Greece to start producing gluten-free cured meats.
For extra safety, you should choose packaged products as there is no way to ensure the absence of gluten on the cured meats counter, due to the possibility of cross-contamination with other products on cutting machines.

Nowadays, cured meats are mostly made from pork and turkey. They are also made from beef, chicken, veal, lamb and sheep. The quality of the meat is sorted into categories, defined according to fat percentage as well as the animal’s age and gender.

Turkey meat. Turkeys used in meat production must reach 12 weeks of age for hens and 16 weeks for toms (weighing 6 and 11 kg respectively). After bleeding and plucking, the meat is processed in the same way as chicken but with extra caution as to its preservation since it is vulnerable to microbes, viruses etc.

Pork. This meat comes from pigs that have reach a maximum age of 6-7 months (weighing 90-120 kg) and is almost completely cleaned of fat, and intramuscular fatty tissue. In cutlets and neck cuts a part of the tissue remains. In belly and chest cuts, the surface fat and skin are retained.

Beef. It is classified into categories depending on the age and gender of the animal: young oxen, heifers and cows. Veal is considered the best quality meat in this category. Breed is also a factor that defines quality. Meat producing breeds and crossbreeds give more tender meat than dual purpose breeds (milk and meat production).

Veal. Meat from animals aged up to 4 months (weighing up to 150 kg). This meat is fat free and has a lighter colour than beef. Colour is indicative of meat quality: pink or light red is absolutely preferable to "whitish" veal meat which is a result of a diet lacking in iron and fresh feed. Suckling veal meat, of course, is superior to all others.

Lamb & sheep. Lamb meat is taken from animals that are younger than 1 year old while, as a rule, sheep meat refers to the meat of animals of different ages (from lamb to adult sheep) and genders (female and male).

Chicken meat. Poultry farm animals must have reached 2 kg (8 weeks of age). The protein in their meat is almost equal in value to that of mammals; their meat is easier to digest while their fat is high in unsaturated fatty acids. The tender and juicy nature of the chicken meat depends on the age, gender and type of animal, and also on whether the meat has been preserved well, i.e. in relatively high temperature and low humidity.

When a product is labeled, for example, "Juice with no sugar added", that means that it contains fruit sugars and no additional sugar. Besides sugar itself, the group of sugars includes glucose, fructose, lactose and different types of syrups.

 

All NIKAS products are produced in Greece. From the day the company was founded, over 50 years ago, our production unit and all logistics operations have been based in Aghios Stefanos. This is a historically Greek company which has now become synonymous with cured meats in Greece.

 

According to Greek legislation, cured meat products are classified based on:
a) whether the meat is minced or not during production,
b) the processing method used: cooked (heat treated), mature (dry) or simply salted and raw (corned).

A) Products made from pieces of meat

  • Mature products. Cured meat made from individual pieces of meat that, following the addition of salt and spices, are left to age in controlled conditions, from 2 to 24 months. These are: prosciutto, shoulder, aged silverside from pork meat as well as pastrami made from beef, goat, sheep or camel meat.
  • Cooked products (heat treated). Cured meats that are made from individual pieces of meat, and are heat treated at 70°C, and possibly smoked, (resulting in complete protein coagulation). These are: ham, shoulder, pork silverside, steak and turkey or chicken fillet.

Β) Products from minced meat

  • Raw products. These are fresh sausages which contain minced meat, mixed with spices and encased in an edible casing (animal intestine). Products that have been smoked or dried to a small degree.
  • Mature products (dry). Cured meats that are encased in a natural or artificial casing and aged (and may also be smoked) in a natural or artificial environment (controlled) for a period of 4-8 weeks. These are: dry salamis and sujuk.
  • Partially mature products (semi-dry). Cured meat that is partially matured in a suitable environment and is then pasteurized and possibly smoked. These are: beer salami.
  • Cooked products (heat treated). Cured meats that are made from finely chopped pieces of meat, and are heat treated at 70°C, and possibly smoked, resulting in complete protein coagulation. These are: sausages, cooked salamis, parizer and mortadella.

By definition, “light” products contain fewer calories compared to similar products of the same or other companies in the industry. The best way to monitor our calorie intake is to compare products as to energy per 100 gr or per portion.

At NIKAS there are no compromises made when it comes to the quality of the products we produce and distribute.

Quality control consists of the following:

1) Analysis of external morphology such as colour, texture etc.

2) Analysis of organoleptic characteristics such as smell, taste etc.

3) Analysis of chemical characteristics such as moisture content, fat, protein, salt, carbohydrates, inorganic substances, nitric salts etc.

4) Analysis of microbiological characteristics such as listeria, salmonella, fungi, yeasts, Staphylococcus aureus, e-coli etc.

As a matter of fact, NIKAS was  one of the first companies in Greece to be certified in accordance with Quality Assurance Systems.

The company has received the following certifications on product quality and safety:

1)  ISO 9001- Product quality assurance

2)  ISO 22000: 2005 (HACCP)- Food safety management system

3)  IFS- A standard that sets out all requirements for food product safety, legality and quality that must be met by food manufacturing and packaging companies established by German retailers.

4)  BRC- Certification for food safety and quality in food products and packaging established by British retailers.

5)  ISO 14001- Environmental performance and conformity to strict environmental requirements 

 

We also carry out Real Τime PCR testing, one of the latest procedures applied by NIKAS Quality Control Department. It involves the control of purity, quality and suitability of meat used in the production of processed meat products. It is a biochemical and molecular biology technique for isolating and expanding a DNA sequence, through DNA enzymatic replication, without using living organisms. The DNA tracking system installed in our facilities guarantees uninterrupted and high-sensitivity purity control of all products and is based on the DNA replication model, a high-precision technique applied by this particular equipment.

The difference between roasted, smoked, and cooked meats is that they are heat treated in a different way.

Cooked cured meats are heat treated with steam (wet heat treatment). Roasted cured meats (from whole pieces of meat) are roasted in an oven (dry heat treatment). Smoked cured meats are processed in a similar way to cooked cured meats (smoked, wet heat treatment) or roasted meat (roasted-smoked) but at the end of the process, there is an additional stage of smoking. Smoking is the process that gives these products their distinct smell and taste. Finally, oven roasted cured meats are yet another NIKAS innovation: they are slow-roasted in specially built ovens, in controlled temperature and low humidity.

 

A series of natural or chemical additives is added to the majority of foods. These additives are used to improve the food's taste, colour or texture and also to keep it from spoiling. These additives are indicated by their approved name or by "E" followed by a number. “E” indicates that this is an approved additive according to EU legislation.

Numbers:

100 to 199 refer to colorants.

200 to 299 refer to preservatives.

300 to 399 refer to anti-oxidants.

400 to 499 refer to stabilizers.

500 to 599 refer to acidity regulators.

600 to 650 refer to flavor enhancers.

900 to 999 refer to processing aids and gasses.

1100 to 1520 refer to enzymes, modified starches and technological function aids.

Many additives are already known due to their use in cooking. Among them, E500 refers to sodium bicarbonate, better known as soda or baking powder; E300 refers to citric acid; E100 refers to curcumin commonly known as turmeric; E160 is a paprika extract, while E220 and E223 are sulphur dioxides used in keeping wine from turning sour.

  • Cured meats are sensitive to light, humidity and high temperature. You should be careful when it comes to preservation conditions, and always refer to the packaging of each product where the expiry date is provided. Similarly, when buying from a cured meat counter, you should pay attention to any instructions from the employee who is serving you.
  • The period during which meats are preserved refers to maintaining best possible taste.
  • Some products such as bacon, country sausages, frankfurters and cocktail sausages can be preserved for longer periods if kept in the freezer. However, when they are defrosted, they must be consumed on the same day.
  • Packaged cured meats last for the period indicated on the packaging.
  • For cut cured meats, it depends on when the employee on the counter opened the packaging. Ham, turkey and parizer slices can be preserved in proper conditions (2-40C) for a period of 2-3 days.

The nutrients found in meat are valuable for the proper development of the human body. Meat is an important source of albumin which is the main component of muscle meat. Along with albumin in eggs and milk, meat albumin is among the proteins with the greatest biological value (greater than that of plant proteins) due to the fact that it is rich in basic amino acids.
Many believe that meat is high in energy as well as fat. However, in the current market, that is true only for some separate meat parts. Similarly, cured meats are separated into high calorie, high fat or low calorie, low fat products. In “light" products, fat is reduced by up to 30% compared to regular products.
Meat and its by-products contain many metals that are superior or equal to those found in vegetables. For example, meat has a high iron content that our body can absorb quite easily.
Few people know that meat contains many vitamins and is the most important source of Vitamin B.
Finally, meat contains cholesterol which is not always considered bad. Cholesterol is a substance that is necessary for the human body as it contributes significantly to the structure of cells and neural pathways. Furthermore, our body produces cholesterol itself and uses a control mechanism to regulate its levels in blood. 

Cured meats owe their existence on the need to preserve meat over a long period avoiding spoilage. They are made of pieces from different types of meat on which salt or other spices are added. The final product is the result of various "cooking” methods such as smoking, cooking, roasting or hanging or a combination thereof. In Ancient Rome, the word salumen referred to salted materials. In the Middle Ages, preserved meat (mostly pork), was among the main sources of food. 

Cured meats are, among others, ham, mortadella, sausages, salami, prosciutto, pancetta, bacon, pork leg and more. Cured meats made in Greece come from beef, pork, lamb, turkey or chicken meat. The most known and traditional cured meat products are apaki, lountza, syglino , pastourmas, kavourmas, Cycladic liokafto, nouboulo etc.

 

Sodium is a component of salt but may also be part of different ingredients such as sodium bicarbonate, monosodium glutamate etc. Sodium is also naturally occurring in all foods, whether derived from animals or plants and even though it is a necessary substance for our body, high consumption of sodium is connected to hypertension. According to modern guidelines, sodium consumption should be limited to 2,400 – 3,000mg daily. This corresponds to 6gr of salt daily (approximately 1 teaspoon in total). Considering that each gram of salt contains approximately 0,4gr of sodium, you can easily calculate the amount of salt content in a food product by doubling its sodium content.

Cured meats are found either at a counter (where there is the possibility to cut them in several forms and sizes), or at shelves, packaged in special containers (plastic, paper, etc). The packaging used is mainly determined by the type of product. This means that products made from minced meat are encased in animal intestines (pork, beef, etc) and artificial cases (paper, plastic etc). Following that, in order to increase preservation time for the product, they are packaged again in plastic packaging (for foodstuff) or in a vacuum or in protective atmosphere (i.e. air which consists of 70% CO2 and 30% nitrogen). Cooked products are packaged and cooked in large or small plastic cases. Afterwards products are delivered to the stores in order to be sliced. Due to the curing process used, aged products made from pieces of meat can be preserved for a large period of time even without packaging. NIKAS was the first company in Greece to use latest technology intestining for the innovative series of OVEN ROASTED NIKAS products. It is an intestine that is expandable and helps the cooking process while the aromas of the product continue to develop even after the cooking process has been completed.

Cut products (e.g. slices) and, in general, products with one or more cuts on their surface may tend to develop some moisture. This is expected and as long as these fluids are clear it is not an indication of poor product quality.
However, you should be careful:
If the fluids in the packaging are not clear but slimy and have an acidic smell, this is a sign of microbial spoilage of the product. This can happen if:
a) Your refrigerator has not been set on a temperature that is low enough (0- 40C).
b) You have not followed correct hygiene practices (clean fridge, clean hands, proper storage of product to avoid exposure etc).

The history of cured meat production in Greece begins in Antiquity. Homemakers at the time were talented in the preparation of sausages and smoked meat. In later times, in Greek villages, all homemakers knew how to make their own cured meat from pork. To obtain the best taste in meat, they fed their animals with grass, acorns and corn. They waited until they were older, and after slaughtering them, they would sell the large pieces of meat to merchants and keep smaller pieces of meat to make sausages, keep them in salt, smoke them and preserve them in fat. This was the method for making the very well known salted pork or syglino that covered a family’s needs for six months.

During the Ottoman rule, livestock farming was not widespread and, as a result, meat curing did not change significantly. However, in the beginning of the 1900s, local artisans became more prominent and started making sausages and salamis with names of origin, such as Mykonos lountza and Lefkada salami. After 1955 came the first significant efforts to modernize Greek cured meat production. And by 1970, modern production facilities started making their appearance. When Greece joined the EU, the Greek cured meat industry was introduced to a period of modernization and harmonization with European standards, which resulted in the introduction of numerous, high quality products that have gained recognition in both the domestic and foreign market. Since then, innovation has become an integral part of NIKAS’s daily operation.