Analysis of Meat Tenderness

Meat processing typically includes both slaughtering and packaging. Whether processing chicken, pork, or beef, meat processing plants are concerned with speed and quality. Color, texture, and sensory appeal are important characteristics for the industry. In addition, the desire of health-conscious consumers to know the nutritional data of foods, including meat, has led to the use of NIR spectroscopy as a tool for analyzing both raw and processed meat. Using VIS/NIR spectroscopy can allow meat processors and packagers to meet the latest demands of more health conscious consumers, market price pressures, and increasingly strict industry standards.

Traditional grading by marbling typically results in categorization as either Choice or Select. With better tenderness measurement, many Select graded steaks might actually be classified as “Tender Select” and could be sold at a higher price that was still attractive to the consumer. Using a spectrometer with a contact probe specifically designed for this application, could provide a fast and more accurate method for grading beef than traditional intra-muscular marbling.

In general, tough meat absorbs more light than tender meat. Reflectance values associated with wavelengths between 552- 930 nm can be primarily used. The VIS/NIR measurements were used to predict slice shear force values. “Tough” was greater than the predicted median, while “tender” was less than the predicted slice shear force value.

Meat tenderness analysis could be accomplished with a SPECTRAL EVOLUTION SR-3500 with a three array detector configuration covering the entire spectrum of UV/VIS/NIR:

  • 512 element Si array – 350-1000nm
  • 256 InGaAs array – 1000-1900nm
  • 256 InGaAs array – 1900-2500nm

Using the SR-3500, a large number of beef carcasses could be analyzed, non-destructively, in a short amount of time. Once the spectra are captured using the SR-3500’s DARWin Data Acquisition software, the data is saved in ASCII files for immediate use with no pre-processing required. The data can be analyzed with many different third party chemometrics software packages.

Other potential applications for NIR spectroscopy could be the evaluation of the chemical lean value (fat content) of ground beef and meat trimmings, as well as the detection and qualification of adulterants in fresh and thawed minced beef, as well as:

  • Prediction of color, texture, and sensory characteristics of beef steaks
  • Measurement of chemical lean (CL) and fat content in meat trimmings and ground beef
  • Detection and quantification of adulterants in frozen/thawed ground beef
  • Predicting tenderness and color in beef
  • Effects of storage time and temperature on chicken breast tenderness
  • Prediction of sensory characteristics of lamb for sorting into quality classifications
  • Discrimination between fishmeal, meat meal, and soy meal samples
  • Analysis of the chemical composition of meat for nutritional guides
  • Rapid classification for sorting of beef carcasses in the plant
SR-3500 portable spectroradiometer

The SR-3500 can be used to gauge the tenderness of beef, quickly and non-destructively anywhere in the meat processing or packaging line – from quickly analyzing a large number of beef carcasses to helping to qualify adulterants in thawed minced beef.

  • Easy measurement of surface reflectance at 350- 2500nm
  • Comfortable pistol grip with built-in 5 watt tungsten halogen light source
  • Lightweight and easy to carry
  • Plugs directly into the SR-3500 for use anywhere in a processing or packaging plant
Contact probe for use with field spectrometer