• Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Think Outside the Farm

 

By Jessica Walker Boehm for Growing Oregon magazine

From snacks to full meals, Oregon supplies thousands of Americans with their favorite fare. The state is a leader in the food processing industry, with several of its companies producing frozen and freeze-dried foods enjoyed across the United States.

Frozen Foods

Oregon companies, such as Albany’s National Frozen Foods Corp., offer frozen food options to consumers. After harvesting, the vegetables are quick-frozen within hours, locking in freshness and nutrition. Thanks to this process, consumers can enjoy the fresh flavors and health benefits of vegetables any time of the year.

Oregon is also home to Willamette Valley Pie Co., located just outside of Salem. In addition to frozen pies and cobblers, the company offers more than 15 types of packaged fruit that is prepared through the Individually Quick Frozen (IQF) process. During IQF, each piece of fruit is frozen without touching any other pieces, eliminating possible clumping that might damage the fruit. The result is frozen fruit that is ripe, sweet, and full of flavor and nutrients.

Willamette Valley Pie Co. products are available on their website, www.wvpie.com, and at markets throughout the state.

Additional Oregon frozen food processors include Calbee North America, Heinz Frozen Food Co., Smith Frozen Foods, Amy’s Kitchen, Ajinomoto Frozen Foods USA, Reser’s Fine Foods and NORPAC Foods Inc.

Willamette Valley Pie Company

Willamette Valley Pie Company

Freeze-Dried Foods

Oregon Freeze Dry Foods, the world’s largest diversified freeze dryer, has more than 32,000 square feet devoted to food processing at its Albany campus. According to Jim Merryman, OFD Foods president and chief operating officer, food is dehydrated during the freeze-drying process, but all nutrients remain in the food and it retains its original color, size and shape.

“You put a grape in, you get a grape back out,” Merryman says. “It’s just missing all the water, so everywhere there was a water molecule, there’s now a hole.”

Primarily serving the general public and the U.S. military, OFD Foods freeze dries more than 450 different products, including fruits, vegetables, beef, poultry and seafood. Because the water is removed from each item before packaging, no preservatives or additional ingredients are necessary.

“By removing the water, you concentrate the flavor because it isn’t being diluted,” Merryman says.

To ensure food stays fresh for as long as possible, OFD Foods packages food in cans and pouches, which Merryman says are the best options that current technology offers.

“If you can keep moisture and oxygen away from the food once it is freeze-dried, it has an indefinite shelf life – it won’t change,” Merryman says.

“Freeze-dried foods are convenient,” says Brian Campbell, director of food safety and policy for the 

Northwest Food Processors Association. “They have good shelf stability and maintain their nutritional integrity.”

Through the freeze-drying process, hikers, campers and other consumers can enjoy nature’s bounty, no matter the season.

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