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Tenderness, toughness, springiness and firmness are all terms that are used to describe the quality of meat, poultry and fish, but how does this translate into analytical information that food technologists and quality personnel can use to critically assess these attributes and evaluate the quality of meat? Meat is a particularly sensitive sector when it comes to consumer acceptance. Whereas other foods compete for consumer preference by, for example, innovating new products and flavors, meat is often graded just by its sensory texture, a factor linked to its perceived quality.
It is the primary consideration made by a consumer is assessing meat and meat products. If the texture is too tough or too tender, or its texture has changed, perceptions of the product are affected.
Texture measurement can assess a variety of meat products including:
The recreation of meat texture is an important sensory quality factor for vegetarian alternatives to these products.
Measuring products such as minced meat, ground beef and other comminuted, fresh processed meat products, through the use of bulk analysis gives a much more accurate indicator of its quality. These types of food are consumed and handled in bulk form, therefore they are ideally measured in the same way to help quantify the toughest components and indicate bulk firmness.
Squashing solid and self-supporting samples enables a number of textural properties to be evaluated, including hardness, stickiness, springiness and fracturability.
Meat pastes and liquids are extruded in order to measure their consistency and body. Application examples include:
In puncture and penetration tests, the forces to attain deformation are calculated as a representation of muscle binding or sample hardness: indicative of sample toughness and maturity. Small cylinders, balls, needles and cones are used to penetrate into a sample's surface imitating biting in the mouth.
Multiple point analysis is useful for meat products with differing textures, such as burger patties and reformed ham.
A wire blade can be used on low force measurements, whereas a shear blade is required for heavier duty tests.
Break strength analysis of meat products can be undertaken using the extensibility or pure tension procedures.