AAAS QLD & NT Webinar Series: March 2021

Love Meat Tender: A shocking tale of red meat tenderness and taste buds

Hello Fellow Animal Enthusiasts!

Our March webinar was quite the beef experience, so read along if you want to know all the juicy bits of it.

Australia is well recognised for being a world leader in the production of high-quality beef. As the demand for protein is expected to increase alongside a landscape of competitive overseas markets, there are opportunities and challenges ahead. The goal for the Australian red meat industry is to ensure its global reputation is maintained in every aspect of the supply chain from paddock to plate.

In this seminar, Dr. Ciara McDonnell, Commonwealth Scientific Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), and A/Prof Heather Smith, Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation (QAAFI)-University of Queensland, talked about the implementation of strategies that can potentiate the demand for Australian beef focusing on factors that influence the consumer’s choice of meat such as meat tenderness and sensory enjoyment.

As part of the Food Program at CSIRO, Dr Ciara McDonnell works on emerging and sustainable technologies for food processing. In the Pilot Processing Plant, located at Coopers Plains in Brisbane, she and her colleagues are studying how shockwave technology can be implemented in the meat tenderisation process. The technology is based on the application of high-pressure levels for short periods of time (microseconds). A study performed in 1997 by US-based researchers, Solomon and colleagues, showed how packaged meat that was submerged into water and exposed to the detonation of 100g of explosives resulted in up to 59% increase in tenderness. However, there were a lot of safety concerns with this approach. Now, Dr McDonnell and colleagues are studying how to optimise meat tenderisation in a commercial prototype machine, designed by DIL in Germany, that uses electrodes to generate shockwaves underwater. In a project funded by the Australian Meat Processors Cooperation (AMPC), the researchers investigated how electrical shockwave influenced the long-term storage of striploin and brisket in terms of quality and microbial counts. The results showed no effect on the microbial load, but tenderness differences were found to be muscle-dependent, while moisture loss was dependent on the interaction of shockwaves with storage time. Overall, the study showed that shockwaves can achieve increased tenderness without altering other important meat quality parameters. Future work will be focused on comparing this outcome to other conventional tenderisation technologies as well as performing sensory analysis.

Certainly, there is nothing better than the experience of eating perfectly cooked tender meat. The volatile aroma compounds that come from beef make up less than 1% of the total food composition but constitute the basis for a wide range of the sensory and chemical properties that contribute to our eating experience. When it comes to finding the right words to describe the unique flavours, texture, and aroma of cooked beef, most people would find the task very challenging. However, thanks to the work of sensory and flavour expert A/Prof Heather Smyth from QAAFI and her experienced flavour panel, there is now a flavour wheel that can be used to market Australia’s famous Wagyu beef. This is the result of a collaboration with Australian Agricultural Company who was interested in creating a lexicon to accurately communicate the value and uniqueness of its Westholme Wagyu beef brand whilst reinforcing its provenance story. Provenance is a term that means “to come from”, and in food research is often used to create customer awareness about the value of a product by understanding where and how it has been produced. A/Prof Smyth explained that factors such as the animal’s age, diet, environment, seasonality, slaughter method, and even shelving and storage time can influence the unique flavour and signature characteristics of beef. Therefore, a flavour wheel is a useful tool that can be used to define the point of difference of a premium product and shape the story of its provenance for marketability to customers willing to pay for a flawless eating experience.

The research presented by Ciara and Heather highlights the importance of innovative production technologies and flavour branding approaches to bring Aussie beef to the next level.

Thanks for reading!

Emily Mantilla

QAAFI PhD candidate, AAAS Student Member

To catch up on the webinar, visit our Facebook page.