Scandinavian and Norwegian researchers, along with international meat and equipment suppliers and research centers, have been working to develop systems for grading meat quality to measure tenderness, water bonding and activity, bacterial contamination, and the detection of foreign bodies in meat products.
One of those tools is a low-energy x-ray that also measures water bonding in meat.
Researchers Marion O'Farell and Gregory Bouquet, at SINTEF, an independent Scandinavian research organization, said the x-rays are lower than normal, but also at different levels.
"This provides us with invaluable information about the tenderness of the meat," O'Farell says. "The results show that it is possible to separate meat samples from the same muscle tissue into two or three different categories based on both tenderness and water bonding."
Moreover, many large-scale experiments have been carried out at Liverpool John Moores University in collaboration with the rest of the project group. The promising results for water activity and water bonding properties will be followed up so that the methods can be applied in the industry.
Based on the results from a project called 'Informed', a company called Tomra has designed and built a prototype low-energy x-ray device for the foodstuffs industry with the aim of measuring the tenderness of meat and detecting the presence of unwanted plastic objects in meat products. The device is currently undergoing tests.
Consumers may ultimately be able to get guarantees about the level of tenderness in the meat they buy, O'Farell says. Tenderness measurements may also allow suppliers to achieve better meat quality from other parts of the animal, and probably increase prices where quality can be guaranteed.