The efforts of Swift & Co. in the development and production of space foods have been geared mainly to problems of production rather than to development of new meat-type items. Constant efforts have been made toward improving product quality in regard to safety, nutritional value, and physical characteristics for our astronauts, while also improving production rate and end-item uniformity.
Meat items and some other ingredients used in their production are highly variable in composition. This is especially true of the water content of meats and vegetables. In the case of meats, which are the main components of our products, the fat content is highly variable within the same grade and cut of meat. This fat content is difficult for even an experienced meat technologist to judge to a figure closer than ±5 percent. Since water content is inversely related to the fat content, it is very difficult to control the dry-matter content and, therefore, the dry weight of meat space food items. A fat-content variance of ±5 percent (e. g., 10 percent rather than 15 percent, or, in the other direction, 20 percent) would result in as much as ±5 percent variance in drymatter content. Since approximately 100 g is the wet weight of a meat-type meal unit, this results in approximately a ±5 g variance in final product weight.
During Project Gemini the product was cut to a physical dimension which could be fairly well controlled and it was attempted to minimize the weight variance by precisely judging fat content of the meat used. However, variances of as much as 5 to 6 g in final product weight occurred, and in many cases products had to be reprocessed to meet weight requirements.
During the latter phase of Project Apollo, permission was obtained to cut products to a dry weight rather than to a physical dimension. The reason for this was that weight was considered more critical than dimension, in that weight was very closely related to nutritional factors. Producing meal units having prescribed dry weight requires that dry-matter content be determined on each product lot produced prior to cutting the bars in order that adjustments can be made in weights by varying the thickness of the products. This has greatly helped in achieving more uniform specified product weights but not necessarily more uniform nutritional content, except for calorie value, which is more uniform to some degree. In order to provide a high degree of uniformity in nutritional value, all ingredients used which are found to be highly variable in nutritional content would have to be predetermined and adjusted prior to preparation. This would be extremely costly because of the production quantities required for each production lot. A 30 kg batch on a wetweight basis is considered a gigantic order. A 10- to 15-kg batch is closer to the norm. Preparing  such a small production batch is extremely costly because of the high costs of labor for preparation and cleanup, inspection, and maintenance in relation to returns for a small number of items. Such a procedure is also time consuming. This is critical when one is working with a very highly perishable product such as meat.
Much thought and effort have been devoted to reducing production costs and improving the uniformity of products. These efforts have been severely limited by the very small volumes of production required, which do not lend themselves to automation or justify equipment development. During Project Gemini, almost all items were basically individually handmade.
Sandwiches were made in the conventional manner by using an individual sandwich mold to provide proper filling thickness. They were then individually dipped in gelatin and cut by hand one at a time into bite-size pieces. It was possible to cut 6 to 9 bite-size sandwiches from one large sandwich, the number depending on the shape of the slice of bread and the number of holes in the bread. Bread with fewer holes, especially made for sandwich preparation, is now sliced lengthwise rather than across the loaf in the conventional manner. This reduces the time required in making the sandwich and 39 to 42 bite-size sandwiches can be cut from each large sandwich by using a three-unit stamp cutter. Coating of the bite-size sandwiches, however, is still a one-by-one procedure.
In the case of meat bites, the product formula was initially layered in trays to a depth equal to the thickness of the bite required. After chilling, the product was cut into bites by hand using a crude cookie-type cutter. This, of course, was slow, and in many cases the bites were highly variable in thickness because of trays that were not level or errors in layering the proper thickness. There was also a 30- to 40-percent loss of material because of rounded corners, miscuts, etc. Currently the material is molded into logs of proper height and width and long enough for 30 bites to be cut from each log with a saw after the product is frozen. This has greatly increased the rate and efficiency of production, and weight can be adjusted by varying the thickness of the bites. These bites must still be coated by hand on a one-by-one basis, however.
Rehydratable bar products were initially prepared by weighing each component into a cantype mold, mixing these with a spatula, and freezing. The frozen product was removed from the can and three bars were cut from each mold. The total formula is now premixed and molded into logs of the proper width and long enough for approximately 24 bars to be cut from each log. This results in more uniform mixing and reduces the labor in mold filling, removal, and cutting. The weight of the bars, on the basis of predetermined drying yields, can be adjusted by varying the thickness of the bar being cut.
Perhaps the greatest improvement in rehydratable products has been in the use of textured beef and chicken. This process provides a binding characteristic within the meat piece which reduces the shredding or falling apart of the meat when it is diced into small pieces. This, in conjunction with an increase in the size of the mouth piece of the rehydratable pouch which permits an increase in the dice size of the meat particle, has resulted in a larger particle size. This process, we feel, has greatly improved the eating characteristics of these items, especially in the case of chicken products.
 There are three future areas of research for improving these food items that are believed to be worthy of considerable effort. The first, and one in which it is believed much improvement can be made in a relatively short time, requires a critical look at flavors or spice levels in existing rehydratable items. It is believed that these items could be made more tasty simply by altering the levels of their spices, by modifying the spice formula, or, perhaps, by modifying some processing procedures. This, however, would require a considerable amount of preparation and testing. It is not believed necessary to freeze-dry and rehydrate these items for this purpose until after any major changes are made. It is proposed that the initial evaluation and recommendations be performed by a professional profile panel. After the major modifications have been made it is also believed that our astronauts should be permitted to evaluate and make recommendations on these products before a final formula is established. Again, it is believed this could be done without freeze-drying and rehydrating as long as processing is done in the same manner as that to be followed in production. It must be granted, however, that some flavor loss or alteration does occur during freeze-drying. Perhaps it may be possible to provide means for the astronaut to spice his own food to suit his own taste.
A second area worthy of consideration follows from the new concept of spoon and bowl feeding. This should greatly affect factors such as particle size and consistency of the products, and it may affect other factors relating to food preparation and formulation. It appears highly conceivable that grilled steak, pork chops, and ham could be prepared and consumed in this manner although such items have not been used before. It is proposed that these possibilities be investigated. Such items should greatly enhance mealtime in space.
A third area that I consider worthy of investigation is the concept of using the intermediate moisture or moisture mimetic agent foods to replace or improve the acceptability of the current very dry and fragile bite-size meat items. These moist items would also provide a much higher weight and caloric density than do our current bite-size items. This concept could be applied toward new items or to improvement of our current items. The use of such a concept should greatly improve the mouth feel or texture of the product and also provide improved flavor characteristics. It is conceivable that these products can be compressed or extruded and, therefore, would be more uniform in physical dimension and weight. Such items may or may not require a coating to be applied to the outside surface to prevent crumbs. It is also conceivable that these products may be provided not only in bite-size cube form but also in strips or sticks which would permit the astronaut to bite off and chew a part of the material and not be forced to place the entire piece in his mouth before chewing. In this way he could adjust the size of the bite to suit himself.
My remarks in regard to our current efforts and proposed future efforts for space feeding are now concluded. I feel that great strides can be made to provide more enjoyable mealtimes for our astronauts in the future and that such will result from this conference.