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Pre-rigor carcass stretching counteracts the negative effects of high rigor temperature on tenderness and water-holding capacity – using lamb muscles as a model

Warner, R. D., Kerr, M., Kim, Y. H. B., Geesink, G.
Animal production science 2014 v.54 no.4 pp. 494-503
adenosinetriphosphatase, beef, color, cooking quality, denaturation, electrical treatment, lamb carcasses, longissimus muscle, models, pH, protein solubility, ribs, slaughter, temperature, water holding capacity
High pre-rigor muscle temperature has negative consequences on quality and has been predominantly studied in the excised longissimus muscle of beef and lamb carcasses. There is little data on other muscles, the application in whole carcasses or potential amelioration techniques such as stretching. This study evaluated the effects of electrical stimulation, high pre-rigor temperature and stretching of lamb sides on quality traits and protein denaturation in four leg muscles [gluteus medius (GM), rectus femoris (RF), semimembranosus (SM) and semitendinosus (ST)]. Twenty lamb carcasses were used with two electrical stimulation treatments (stimulated or non-stimulated, +/-) and two pre-rigor temperature treatments (chilled at 2°C directly after slaughter, or held in 37°C water for 4.5 h before transfer to a 2°C chiller) applied. One side of each carcass was suspended from the Achilles tendon, whereas the other side was stretched by allowing the leg to drop and tying it to the ribs. Electrical stimulation did not influence the different traits except for pH fall post slaughter and myosin denaturation. Stretching resulted in greater muscle and sarcomere lengths for the GM, SM and ST, but a decrease in sarcomere length for the RF. For the non-stretched GM and SM, the 37°C treatment resulted in tougher meat at 1 and 8 days post mortem compared with the 2°C treatment. In contrast, the stretched 37°C treatment resulted in more tender meat for the GM, SM and ST at 1 day post mortem compared with the 2°C treatment. For all muscles, the 37°C treatment resulted in a decrease in the water-holding capacity (increased purge, surface exudate and cooking losses). The magnitude of this effect was generally diminished by stretching for the GM, SM and ST, but for the RF, (which was not stretched by the treatment) this effect was reversed. The 37°C treatment resulted in paler meat (increased L*-values) for the GM, SM and ST relative to the 2°C treatment. The observed effects of the 37°C treatment on water-holding capacity and colour could be explained by the effects of this treatment on indicators of protein denaturation (sarcoplasmic protein solubility and myofibrillar ATPase activity), which were decreased for the GM, SM and ST. The response to both temperature and stretching varied between the muscles, due to different anatomical location and also due to postulated differences in the fibre types. In conclusion, pre-rigor stretching of lamb sides can counteract the negative effects of high early post-mortem temperature on tenderness and water-holding capacity for those muscles that are stretched as a result of this hanging method.