Predicting Tenderness, Lasting Color in Meat

August 9, 2012

2 Min Read
Predicting Tenderness, Lasting Color in Meat

WASHINGTONA noninvasive tenderness prediction system developed by USDA scientists in the 1990s to predict superior beef tenderness is just as effective at predicting tenderness in pork and color stability in meat, according to a new study published in USDAs Agricultural Research magazine.

The technology, designed to identify U.S. Select beef carcasses with outstanding tenderness in the ribeye/strip loin muscle, is based on visible and near-infrared reflectance (Vis/NIR) spectroscopy, and can be used without destroying any product from the carcass. The system and have tested over the past several years on more than 4,000 beef carcasses and 1,800 boneless pork loins.

In collaboration with the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, the scientists demonstrated how the technology could be applied on the ribeye during carcass grading at commercial processing facilities, and to individual cuts of meat after aging. They also partnered with the National Pork Board to successfully predict tenderness of boneless pork loins during the boning and trimming process.

Some steaks and chops turn brown quicker than others and often have to be sold at a discount or thrown away. Scientists were able to modify the system to predict color stability. They looked at environmental factors, such as lighting and oxygen consumption, by simulating a retail display case to mimic conditions steaks go through in a traditional supermarket.

Prediction of cooked-beef tenderness from raw-beef evaluation should allow industry to better funnel beef products to their best end use," the researchers said. Those predicted to be most tender could be valued and marketed as such."

They also studied variations in genetics from a pedigree of 500 animals and found considerable differences in color stability among those animals. That finding suggests color stability might be improved through genetic selection.

We concluded that there were substantial differences across animals in color stability and that there were genetic components that should make it possible to improve stability through genetic selection," they said. In addition, we developed models using the Vis/NIR technology that would allow companies to identify beef and pork suitable for retail markets that require a long color life."

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