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Question of the Day- What makes beef palatable?

Florida and the Beef Market

The primary product of the Florida cattle industry is weaned calves heading out of state.  This is due to that fact that there aren’t enough facilities close to Florida to raise all of these animals to a finished or end weight and process them.  However, the cattle from Florida are still entering the food market and can still be found in local grocery stores and restaurants

Palatability

Palatability measures how pleasant the taste of something is.  In beef, is dependent on flavor, juiciness, and tenderness.  Like many other food industries, the beef industry has devoted years of research to increase the palatability of their products.  Palatability is impacted by degree of cooking, preparation method, cut of meat, and personal preference.  In a recent meta-analysis, roughly 43% of the variation in palatability was attributed to flavor, 7% to juiciness, and 49% to tenderness.

Flavor

Flavor is the most difficult of the three factors to evaluate because it is based on individual preferences.  Family cooking methods, income level, geographical location, and the interaction of taste buds all have a huge impact in what people perceive as a good or bad flavor.  The degradation of lipids by heat and the interaction of the lipids with the Maillard (a chemical reaction between amino acids and reducing sugars in the presence of heat) products are the main producers of flavor compounds.

Juiciness

Juiciness comes from fat content and degree of doneness (how well the cut is cooked).  Although marbling increases juiciness, preparation has a major impact on the level of ‘insurance’ increased marbling provides.  This is also subject to individual consumer preference, as some people prefer well done (and therefor drier) cuts of meat.

Tenderness

Tenderness is a function of intramuscular fat, myofibrillar protein degradation, and connective tissue.  It is measured by how many pounds of pressure it takes to chew or cut through a piece of meat.  Intramuscular fat, or marbling, has been increased in the past decades through genetic selection.  Myofibrilar degradation can be increased by aging the carcass, or allowing the carcass to sit in cold storage for a period of time.  Connective tissue is primarily positively correlated with animal age.

Reference: Scheffler, J.  2019.  Customer Satisfaction and National Tenderness Survey.  2019 Florida Beef Cattle Short Course Proceedings.  University of Florida.

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