Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS

Very fast chilling of beef

The project involves the design of a working procedure, based on very fast chilling (VFC), for installation in beef plants to provide for the continuous processing of carcasses. Fast chilling, if successful, would greatly increase plant throughput and efficiency. Until recently it was accepted that fast chilling toughened meat while slow chilling allowed it to tenderize. However, high sensory scores have been obtained in meat that had been very fast chilled to 0 C. This may be due to the release of extra calcium in the muscle which stimulates enzymes (calpains) that produce an intense tenderization capable of overcoming toughness caused by cold shortening. The 46 participants in the concerted action project are in four sub-groups: perimortem (dealing with stress, slaughter, electrical stimulation); engineering (post-mortem chilling); biology (post-mortem chilling); and quality. In the engineering group in which 29 hindquarters from hot carcasses were chilled using 7 chilling regimes is particularly interesting. The first 3 regimes were designed to bring the temperature of the centre sirloin to 1 C within 4, 6 or 8 h. The temperature was not allowed to drop below -2 C at a depth of 1 cm into the sirloin. Twelve further hindquarters were chilled at faster rates which gave greater depths of freezing. The expected decrease in evaporative weight loss from the very fast chilled treatments did not materialize. The conclusion to-date is that VFC meat can be tender and will increase in tenderness with ageing. Variation in tenderness (attributed to steep temperature gradients) is still a major problem; however, 'restraint' (the prevention of muscle shortening by leaving it on the bone thus securing it physically, or by crust freezing it) is seen as requiring more investigation.

Reported by

The National Food Centre
Dunsinea Castleknock
15 Dublin
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