The beef tenderness model
In Phase1 of this study, three breed types (Simmentaler-, Brahman- and Nguni bulls; n = 60 each) were grain-fed and slaughtered at 12 months of age (A-age, fat-class 2). Feed was withdrawn for either three hours or 24 hours pre-slaughter. Within each feed withdrawal group, three electrical stimulation (ES) treatments were applied, viz. ES for 15 seconds, 120 seconds or no stimulation. In Phase 2, the effects of animal age and feeding regime were investigated using of A-age (feedlot and pasture), AB-age (feedlot and pasture) and B-age (pasture) animals. All carcasses were electrically stimulated for 15 seconds. Longer feed withdrawal increased dark-firm-dry (DFD) meat occurrence (pHu >6) in the Nguni and Simmentaler-cross. Brahman-cross longissimus (LL) tended to be more tender with paler colour and higher drip loss when 120 ES was applied. Longer feed withdrawal recorded higher Warner Bratzler shear force (WBSF) than three hour feed withdrawal. However, ES neutralized the effect of stress on tenderness. On average the AB-age feedlot animals produced the most tender LL followed by the B-age pasture and A-age feedlot which was similar to the AB-age pasture. A-age pasture animals produced the least tender LL steaks. The calpain proteolytic system played a pivotal role in determining the ultimate meat tenderness and although connective tissue becomes less soluble in older animals it did not play the determinant role in tenderness in this study. The intramuscular fat (< 3%) played an important role in the tenderness outcome of Nguni LL which marbled well at AB-age.
Keywords: Meat tenderness, pH and temperature decline profile, pre- and post-slaughter conditions, production systems