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Predict meat quality.

Meat processors are constantly searching for ways to remove a major cause of consumer dissatisfaction: variability in the texture of meat and the consequent toughness it causes. The largest source of variability in texture arises from the different rates at which carcasses go into rigor. This depends on a number of factors, such as stress immediately prior to slaughter, genetic make-up, raising procedures and age.

The objective of one European Union research project is to identify novel physical and biochemical indicators that the meat industry can use to assess the quality properties of their products. This should help to alleviate any inability to produce consistent quality and increase consumer satisfaction.

Scientists have examined amino acid and peptide variations-as biochemical markers of meat quality-along the strip loin in aged beef.

A study is underway that will correlate the variations in amino acids and peptides over the ageing period with various meat quality attributes.

In addition, enzyme activity and electrophoretic patterns of proteins from pork samples have been examined. In terms of physical markers, the maximum amount of muscle shortening, as measured by isometric tension, indicates toughness. Changes in pH and the time taken to reach maximum muscle shortening are good indicators of variations in taste and juiciness.

Measurements taken right after slaughter had more predictive value than those taken during rigor development. Tests with near-infrared (NIR) technology indicated that NIR has the potential to predict sensory tenderness and hardness in beef. NIR measurements on frozen beef were more predictive of tenderness and juiciness than those on fresh samples.

Meanwhile, scientists at the British Technology Group (BTG, 101 Newington Causeway, London SE1 6BU, England, U.K.) are looking to license an online rigor tester that uses the basic feature of rigor: that muscles so affected have a higher resistance to stretching than unaffected muscle tissue. The technique has been developed to measure stiffness in whole carcasses.

The process involves suspending the carcass, after it is bled, from a shackle attached to a force transducer. A jolt is applied to the shackle by allowing the carcass to drop a couple of inches and using the transducer to measure the time and nature of the ensuing oscillations. The frequency of the damped oscillations, which increases from about 7 Hz in pre-rigor carcasses to about 15 Hz in post-rigor carcasses, and the time taken for the first peak force of the oscillations to be generated, are a function of the stiffness of the carcass. The transducer will indicate a varying force after the drop that will settle within a couple of seconds and equate to the weight of the carcass.

Although stiffness in whole carcasses changes less than stiffness measured parallel to the muscle fiber, it is easily quantifiable. Damping, which decreases progressively with time after slaughter, affords an alternative measure of how much rigor has developed.

Further information. D. Troy, Teagasc, The National Food Center, Dunsinea, Castleknock, Dublin 15, Ireland; phone: +353-1-805 9521; fax: +353-1-805 9550; email: At BTG: Tim Addison; phone: +44 171 403 6666; fax: +44 171 403 7586; URL:
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Publication:Emerging Food R&D Report
Geographic Code:4EU
Date:Dec 1, 1999
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