Meat quality parameters

This article will cover 4 parameters of meat quality; pH, color of meat, water holding capacity and texture of the meat. For these parameters all them are affected by the way the farmer feed his/her livestock so that the customer is satisfied and for economic reasons.

Meat pH

The pH changes occurring in meat during the first 24 hrs after slaughter are important for the quality of the final meat or meat products. Protein denaturation will occur if pH falls to too low a level or if a relatively low pH sets in at a time after slaughter where the carcass temperature is still high. This will result in meat with poor water holding capacity. pH is measured electro chemically using either glass or solid state electrodes

Color of meat

The color of meat is one of the main factors consumers use when determining the freshness and quality of the meat in the food retail store or butcher shop. They are looking for a “fresh” color – red for beef, veal for lamb products, pink for pork, and varying colors for chicken. Before the meat product reaches consumers, meat and poultry processors use color to monitor processing and ensure the quality and freshness of the meat

Meat water holding capacity

The water holding capacity of meat (ability to retain inherent water) products is a very important quality attribute which has an influence on product yield, which in turn has economic implications, but is also important in terms of eating quality. A number of pre-and post-mortem factors influence the water holding capacity (WHC) of meat. During the growth and development of meat animals, genotype and animal diet are important due to their direct influence on muscle characteristics.

In the immediate pre-slaughter period, stresses on the animal such as fasting, and different stunning methods are likely to influence meat WHC. In the post-slaughter period chilling, ageing, injecting non-meat ingredients, as well as tumbling have important influences on WHC. Furthermore, cooking and cooling procedures for the final meat products can also affect the WHC of the product, in particular the cooking and the cooling methods, the heating and the cooling rate, the cooking temperature, and the endpoint temperature

These factors can include how the product is handled and processed (number of cuts made and size of resulting meat pieces, orientation of the cuts with respect to the axis of the muscle cell, rate of temperature decline after harvest, temperature during storage and even the rate of freezing and temperature of frozen storage). Also of extreme importance is the metabolic state of the live animal at the time of harvest.

Meat texture and juiciness

Texture of beef remains the most important aspect of eating quality of beef. Meat juiciness is also an attribute valued by most consumers. Although consumers routinely pay more for cuts of meat that are typically tenderer, there is some expectation that the meat will also be juicy. The four important factors that determine meat tenderness are background toughness, the toughening phase during rigor onset, during the postmortem aging period, and the denaturation of proteins during cooking

Intramuscular fat and fatty acids composition

Intramuscular fat (IMF) content plays a key role in various quality traits of meat. IMF content varies between species, between breeds and between muscle types in the same breed. Variability in IMF content is mainly linked to the number and size of intramuscular adipocytes. The accretion rate (growth or increase by the gradual accumulation of additional layers or matter) of IMF depends on the muscle growth rate. For instance, animals having a high muscularity with a high glycolytic activity (A metabolic process that occurs in nearly all living cells in which glucose is converted in a series of steps to pyruvic acid and during which energy is released) display a reduced development of IMF. This suggests that muscle cells and adipocytes interplay during growth. Increasing muscularity will also dilute the final fat content of muscle.