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Meat tenderness enhanced with calcium process.

Most everyone enjoys sinking their teeth into a nice, thick, juicy steak. But no one really knows if a cut of meat is going to be tender until they take that first bite.

"A major problem facing the beef industry today is the various degrees of tenderness found in retail cuts of meat," says Mohammad Koohmaraie, an animal physiologist at the Roman L. Hruska U.S. Meat Animal Research Center, Clay Center, Nebraska. Koohmaraie is also head of the Meats Research Unit.

To improve meat tenderness, carcasses or cuts are usually stored (aged) under refrigeration for 7 to 14 days. Now Koohmaraie has found a way to achieve that same degree of tenderness in just 24 hours.

His research has been instrumental in proving the role of calcium-dependent proteases, or calpains, in the tenderization process.

"Injecting a carcass with calcium chloride |turns on' the calpains, which cause muscle degradation, or aging, of meat and speeds the process," says Koohmaraie.

When carcasses are refrigerated for aging, the small amount of calcium naturally present in the meat builds up, activates the calpains, and tenderizes the meat.

Injecting the carcass immediately, or up to 24 hours after slaughter, boosts the muscle calcium concentration and yields tender meat in just 1 day. Over-tenderization is not a problem because the calpains break down while the muscle is degrading.

Notes Koohmaraie, "At 24 hours post mortem, the process will not interfere with grading and inspection. This will make it easier for the meat industry to adopt this technology."

Sensory panel evaluations show that the flavor of the meat is not affected by the injections.

This technology may allow breeders to take advantage of the desirable traits in Bos indicus cattle, like Brahman, without concern for tenderness of the breed's meat. The calcium injection method is also effective with lamb.

And extra calcium in the meat may allow it to be sold as fortified, giving consumers an alternative source of calcium.

Calcium chloride is already approved as a food additive.
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Author:Gerrietts, Marcie
Publication:Agricultural Research
Date:Mar 1, 1993
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