Steaks' tenderness predictable

by Editor
Tuesday, July 29, 2008

UNL scientists have developed a way to predict steak tenderness before the consumer takes that first bite.

The technology could be a boon to the beef industry as it would allow retailers to charge a premium for a "guaranteed tender" label.

The University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) is developing that technology using a hyperspectral imaging, a technology that combines video image analysis and spectroscopy. The system consists of a digital video camera and spectrograph to capture the two key qualities that affect beef tenderness – muscle structure and biochemical properties.

Tender beef has fine muscle fibers, while tough beef has visibly coarser muscle fibers. The spectroscopy measures biochemical properties that show how much the steak will become tender during aging.

In UNL's research, two-day aged, one-inch thick ribeyes were placed on a plate and scanned by the system. After scanning, the steaks were cooked and tested. The system predicted three tenderness categories (tender, intermediate and tough) with about 77 percent accuracy and two tenderness categories (acceptable and tough) with 93.7 percent accuracy.

The Nebraska Beef Council and the National Cattlemen's Beef Association helped fund the research, which was conducted through UNL's Agricultural Research Division.