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Beef Quality Corner -- New Technology for Product Improvement

Livestock Update, December 1998

Bill R. McKinnon, Extension Animal Scientist, Marketing, Animal and Poultry Sciences, Virginia Tech

Research is constantly underway to find ways to cost effectively improve the quality, consistency and safety of beef.

The Kansas Livestock Association reports that Beef Cam is a new video imaging system that has demonstrated a 95% accuracy rate in sorting tough from tender beef carcasses. The system also provides a more accurate means of predicting yield grade along with tenderness. The Beef Cam system captures video images of the longissimus dorsi (ribeye) muscle and uses color analysis to differentiate tough carcasses. Results from the Beef Cam system were compared to actual tenderness scores using the Warner-Bratzler shear test. Beef checkoff dollars helped move the technology from the lab into the packing plant for testing under field conditions. The system could ultimately be used to augment current USDA carcass grading.

Steam pasteurization continues to be adopted into packing plants as a means of improving beef safety. Individual carcasses are subjected to a controlled application of steam within a confined space to decontaminate the carcass before entering the cooler. Currently there are seventeen steam pasteurization units in place in the U.S. treating nearly 60% of the beef carcasses. The technology was developed by Kansas State University, Frigoscandia Food Process Systems, and Cargill in 1995. A second generation of steam pasteurization units that are more mechanically reliable is about to be released which should further enhance beef safety.

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