Local Technology Picks Most Tender Steaks

NEW ZEALAND - All entries for a competition to find the best steak in the country are being assessed for tenderness by meat science technicians at Carne Technologies.
calendar icon 3 May 2011
clock icon 3 minute read

Who produces the tastiest and most tender sirloin steak in New Zealand? That is the question everyone is chewing over as beef farmers, retailers, wholesalers and food-service operators wait for the finalists in this year's Steak of OriginTM challenge.

According to Scoop, the contest, which started nearly a decade ago as a national carcass conformation competition, has been extended in recent years to include tenderness, taste and other quality attributes.

Choosing semi-finalists from nearly 400 entries might seem like an impossible task but home-grown science and technology have come to the rescue. All steaks were assessed by meat science technicians at the Carne Technologies Ltd laboratories in Cambridge using equipment and techniques developed in New Zealand.

Tracey Cummings, the technologist supervising the testing procedures, says that when competition sirloins arrived at the lab they were given a unique number so that nobody else would know where the entry was from and there would be no bias.

“Every entry is aged for 21 days before measuring shear force, colour, marbling and water-binding ability. These tests give a good picture of the tenderness, juiciness, appearance and keeping qualities of each entry and provide a fair and accurate basis for selection,“ says Ms Cummings. “The most important test uses Carne Technolgies’ tenderometer, which measures the amount of force needed for a mechanical tooth to bite through a standard cube of meat.

Each sample was cooked, chilled and cut into 1-cm by 1-cm lengths for testing, and the shear force values relate closely to consumer assessments of tenderness.” Although tenderness is the number one criterion in the contest, there are a number of other quality attributes that make up the whole meat eating experience.

Dr Nicola Simmons explained: “In our work we routinely use a range of other objective tests that indicate juiciness, colour and shelf life, and we are working with Beef + Lamb to bring them gradually into the competition.

“This year we introduced colour and succulence as additional quality attributes, although the finalist selection is still based on pH and tenderness. However, the additional evaluations means that this year’s contestants will get back more information than just tenderness, and many farmers are very interested in using these results to help them breed and rear better animals.“

The test scores from Carne Technologies were used to select semi-finalists in each of the five classes in the Steak of Origin contest, and these were announced on 22 April. The semi-finals are being held in Christchurch on Thursday (5 May) and the finals will be held at the Beef Expo in Feilding on 17 May. Dr Simmons and many of her colleagues are former members of the meat science section of the Meat Industry Research Institute (MIRINZ) where, in the latter part of last century, it was discovered cold-induced toughening in carcasses and developed accelerated conditioning to overcome the problem.

Carne Technologies has built on that knowledge to produce the next generation of stunning, immobilisation and electrical stimulation systems to ensure humane slaughter and enhance eating quality for both local and export meats, according to Scoop. Earlier this year the company carried out all the testing for the Glammies, the equivalent lamb eating quality awards. In addition to pH, colour, succulence and tenderness they analysed lamb legs for lean, fat and bone content to provide accurate assessments of yield.

The role of Carne Technologies Ltd’s laboratory staff in these national contests provides an excellent example of how home-grown science and technology can support the industry to improve its performance in serving up the very best in tenderness and taste to its customers.

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