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Factors influencing the incidence of high rigor temperature in beef carcasses in Australia
- Warner, R. D., Dunshea, F. R., Gutzke, D., Lau, J., Kearney, G.
- Animal production science 2014 v.54 no.4 pp. 363-374
- beef carcasses, carcass weight, color, cows, electrical treatment, eyes, insulin, longissimus muscle, meat processing plants, models, oxen, pH, slaughter, temperature, veal, Australia
- Beef carcasses undergoing rapid pH fall while the loin muscle temperature is still high are described as heat-shortened, heat-toughened or ‘high rigor temperature’ carcasses, with subsequent negative effects on quality traits. The aim of the study was to quantify the occurrence of high rigor temperature in beef carcasses across Australia and to identify the causative factors. Data was collected over 4–5 days at each of seven beef processing plants from 1512 beef carcasses. The beef carcasses were from both grass- and grain-fed cattle ranging in days on grain feeding from 0 (grass-fed) to 350 days and the category of cattle ranged from veal to ox and cow. Data collected on the day of slaughter included the duration of electrical inputs at the immobiliser, electrical stimulation and hide puller, longissimus muscle pH and temperature decline, hot carcass weight and P8 fat depth. At grading, ultimate pH, eye muscle area, wetness of the loin surface and colour score were also collected. The temperature at pH 6 was calculated and if it was >35°C, the carcass was defined as ‘high rigor temperature’. Modelling of the data was conducted using GLMM and REML. The occurrence of high rigor temperature across all seven beef processing plants was 74.6% ranging from 56 to 94% between beef processing plants. Increasing days in the feedlot and heavier carcass weights were highly correlated and both caused an increase in the predicted temperature at pH 6 and in the % high rigor temperature (P < 0.05 for both). Longer duration of electrical inputs at the hide puller, fatter grass-fed cattle and fatter male (castrate) carcasses had a higher temperature at pH 6 and higher % high rigor temperature. Modelling showed that if the time to reach pH 6 in the longissimus muscle was 65 v. 105 min, the % high rigor temperature carcasses reduced from 98 to 19% in grain-fed cattle and 93 to 7% in grass-fed cattle. Higher plasma insulin levels at slaughter were associated with a higher temperature at pH 6 (rigor temperature) (P < 0.001). In conclusion, in order to reduce the incidence of high rigor temperature in grain-fed beef carcasses, methods for identifying high rigor temperature carcasses will be required and while some management strategies can be implemented now, others require further research.