Meat and Fish Applications
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.
Test Methods for the Meat and Fish Sector
Texture measurement can assess a variety of meat products including:
- Tough meat products, such as steaks and whole fish
- Soft protein-based gels, such as surimi
- Pastes, such as meat slurries, stocks and potted meats
- Meat particulate products, such as ground beef and minced meat
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.
- Assess gristle content in ground beef
- Toughness testing of minced meat before and after cooking
- Comparison of veggie and beef/chicken/turkey burgers
- Consistency of sausage, or reconstituted meat patties
Squashing solid and self-supporting samples enables a number of textural properties to be evaluated, including hardness, stickiness, springiness and fracturability.
- Sliced hot dog compression test to assess hardness to touch
- Hardness to touch of salami
- Muscle firmness of whole fish
- Measure physical consistency of sausage for slicing performance
Extrusion (Back Extrusion)
Meat pastes and liquids are extruded in order to measure their consistency and body. Application examples include:
- Yield and spreading properties of meat paste
- Flow and adhesiveness characteristics on spreading and pumping of meat slurries
- Structure recovery, cohesiveness, after pumping
Penetration and Puncture
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.
- Muscle firmness and elasticity comparison between wild and farmed salmon
Multiple Point Penetration
Multiple point analysis is useful for meat products with differing textures, such as burger patties and reformed ham.
- Elasticity of processed meats
- Measure gel firmness, for example surimi, meat and fish jellies
A wire blade can be used on low force measurements, whereas a shear blade is required for heavier duty tests.
- Firmness and toughness of muscles and fibers using the Warner Bratzler
- Compare hardness to bite of hot dog varieties
- Compare burger or joint tenderness and cutting force from different suppliers
- Shearing bite resistance using Volodkevich fixture
- Toughness and hardness to bite of chicken breast fillets with a blade
- Uncooked minced meatball tenderness and shear resistance
Break strength analysis of meat products can be undertaken using the extensibility or pure tension procedures.
- Break strength of liver sausage to identify failure point
- Tear strength of thinly sliced meats