Meat hackathon won by youth turning offal into heart balls

The teams presented their innovative meat products at today’s final round of the Meat Hackathon organised by the Estonian University of Life Sciences The jury chose the Katriin II team (Katriin-Loviis Viltsin, Martin Pent and Mihkel Tammaru) and their heart balls made of beef hearts as the winners. The winning team won a 5000-euro stipend.

Today, the five best teams presented their products and their origin stories at the Estonian University of Life Sciences. The teams were asked to explain what makes their product unique and why consumers should prefer it to others. The jury and audience got to taste their products: they tried meatless shashlik, spicy stir-fry, pounded meat, heart balls made of beef hearts and offal as well as cauliflower, mozzarella and jalapeno balls.

Nõo Meat Factory Chair of the Supervisory Board and Head of the Meat Hackathon Jury Simmo Kruustük assesses the level of this year’s final competition as very high, thus picking a winner caused many heated discussions and arguments among the jury members. “To be honest, all five teams had well thought out products, which have the potential to be part of the selection of Nõo Meat Factory,” Kruustük remarks. “However, what stood out about the winner Katriin II was their thoroughly thought-out concept, which included minimising the environmental footprint as well as the novelty, originality and huge market potential of their product. We hope to reach the market with the heart balls by the end of this year or the beginning of the new year.”

BBQ Symphony barbecue meat master and one of the Meat Hackathon mentors Rain Käärst adds that the Meat Hackathon journey was an interesting and educational experience for all parties. “As mentors, we spent hours with the finalists to highlight the best in their products and put the finishing touches to them. On the one hand, we gained a lot of new ideas and learned to better understand what young people value in meat products. On the other hand, besides coming up with a recipe, the young food technologists and interested young people got to learn about the industrial side. Every home-made dish, no matter how good, is not ready to go on the line,” Käärst remarks.

The winner of Estonia’s first Meat Hackathon, a member of Katriin II, Mihkel Tammaru believes that their extremely systematic approach was the key to their victory. “We wrote down tens and lots of ideas and assessed them critically,” Tammaru explains. “We didn’t just want to come up with one new flavour, instead we wanted to offer a conceptually whole solution. It is very easy to serve beef sirloin but we decided to go for offal, more specifically the beef heart. In this way, we came up with a solution that is local, delicious and environmentally friendly and uses the whole animal from nose to tail.” The product by Katriin II is a heart ball or a meatball made of a beef heart filled with apple and sea buckthorn sauce. Additionally, the team introduced various products made of beef bouillon.

After today, the winning team Katriin II will work with Nõo Meat Factory’s food technologists to put the final touches to their products and design the packaging for them to reach the shelves under the Nõo brand soon. The winning team was awarded a 5000-euro stipend from the Toomas Kruustük Development Fund.

Five teams participated in the final round of today’s Meat Hackathon: Vegetarian shashlik/pâté (Rainer Kravets, Liina Sala), Viilutaja/Slicer (Bruno Lillemets), Tehnika/Technology (Matis Luik), Katriin II (Katriin-Loviis Viltsin, Martin Pent, Mihkel Tammaru) and Tulevikuparandajad/Future Builders (Kirke Triin Lembinen, Mileena Turunin).

The mentors were Nõo Meat Factory’s food technologist Anne Värä, BBQ Symphony’s barbecue meat master Rain Käärst, Meat Technology Lecturer at the Estonian University of Life Sciences Chair of Food Science and Technology Marek Tepper, Meat Technology Lecturer at the Estonian University of Life Sciences Chair of Food Science and Technology Kristi Kerner and Nutritionist at the popular nutrition programme Fitlap Irina Tamme.

Nõo Meat Factory Chair of the Supervisory Board Simmo Kruustük; Chair Holder of Food Science and Technology at the Estonian University of Life Sciences, PhD, doctoral student Ivi Jõudu, Õhtuleht’s food journalist Kersti Eero, Chair of the Board of the Estonian Chamber of Agriculture and Commerce Roomet Sõrmus and Head of Marketing Chair at the School of Economics and Business Administration Andres Kuusik.

In mid-January of this year, Nõo Meat Factory and the Estonian University of Life Sciences announced the first meat hackathon in Estonia. In early March, the jury selected the five best works out of the 40 submitted product ideas – these teams continued to develop and improve their ideas by themselves as well as at the Idea Day organised by the Estonian University of Life Sciences.

The Meat Hackathon is a competition whose aim is to develop the Estonian food culture as well as offer those interested in food production a chance to design a new and innovative meat product or product series. The organisers wish to find an innovative meat product that is healthy and made of natural produce and can be prepared quickly and industrially produced.

You can find more information about the Meat Hackathon here:

A photo gallery from the event: Lihahäkatoni finaalüritus