The 3 Methods of Food Processing

What is food processing exactly? According to Britannica, food processing is any variety of operations by which raw foodstuffs are made suitable for consumption, cooking, or storage.
This includes many forms of processing foods, from grinding grain to make raw flour to home cooking to complex industrial methods used to make convenience foods. Some food processing methods play important roles in reducing food waste and improving food preservation, thus reducing the total environmental impact of agriculture and improving food securityFood processing methods fall into three categories: primary, secondary and tertiary.

Primary Food Processing
Primary food processing is the process of turning raw agricultural products into foods that can be consumed. In some cases, the food is ready to be consumed once primary processing is finished. An example of this is jerky made from smoked meat. In other cases, primary processing turns the agricultural product into an ingredient that can then be made into a consumable food, such as milling grain to create flour. This category also includes ingredients that are produced by ancient processes such as drying, threshing, winnowing grain, shelling nuts, and butchering animals for meat, freezing and smoking fish and meat, extracting and filtering oils, canning food, preserving food through food irradiation, and candling eggs, as well as homogenizing and pasteurizing milk.

Secondary Food Processing
Secondary food processing is the process of using ingredients produced through primary food processing to create ready-to-eat foods. An example of this is using flour to make dough and then baking the dough to create bread. Other examples include fermenting fish, fermenting grape juice with wine yeast to create wine. Sausages are a common form of secondary processed meat, formed by the grinding of meat that has already undergone primary processing. Most of the secondary food processing methods are commonly described as cooking methods.

Tertiary Food Processing

Tertiary food processing is the commercial production of what is commonly called processed food. These are ready-to-eat or heat-and-serve foods, such as TV dinners and re-heated airline meals. Other examples include frozen pizzas and packaged snacks. The term “processed food” typically refers to food products manufactured through tertiary food processing.

Some foods require multiple types of processing to reach their final, consumable forms. For example, tortilla chips. Corn is grown, then harvested and nixtamalized – the process of soaking it in an alkaline solution – before being made into dough. Then, the dough is used to create tortillas, which are then cut and either baked or fried into chips. When this process is done at an industrial scale and sealed in airtight bags, it includes tertiary food processing methods after the food has gone through primary and secondary processing.

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AgricultureCommercial productionFermentingFoodFood processingHarvestNixtamalizedProcessed food