• Reducing the incidence of boar taint in Irish pigs

      Allen, Paul; Joseph, Robin; Lynch, Brendan (Teagasc, 2001-04)
      Boar taint is an unpleasant odour that is released during cooking from some pork and products made from the meat and fat of non-castrated male pigs. Only a proportion of boars produce this odour and not all consumers are sensitive to it. Nevertheless it is a potential problem for the industry since an unpleasant experience can mean that a sensitive consumer may not purchase pork or pork products again. Some European countries are very concerned about this problem and most castrate all the male pigs not required for breeding. Irish pig producers ceased castration more than 20 years ago because boars are more efficient converters of feed into lean meat and a research study had shown that boar taint was not a problem at the carcass weights used in this country at that time.
    • Regulatory polymorphisms in the bovine Ankyrin 1 gene promoter are associated with tenderness and intra-muscular fat content

      Aslan, Ozlem; Sweeney, Torres; Mullen, Anne Maria; Hamill, Ruth M; Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Ireland (Biomed Central, 15/12/2010)
      Recent QTL and gene expression studies have highlighted ankyrins as positional and functional candidate genes for meat quality. Our objective was to characterise the promoter region of the bovine ankyrin 1 gene and to test polymorphisms for association with sensory and technological meat quality measures. Results Seven novel promoter SNPs were identified in a 1.11 kb region of the ankyrin 1 promoter in Angus, Charolais and Limousin bulls (n = 15 per breed) as well as 141 crossbred beef animals for which meat quality data was available. Eighteen haplotypes were inferred with significant breed variation in haplotype frequencies. The five most frequent SNPs and the four most frequent haplotypes were subsequently tested for association with sensory and technological measures of meat quality in the crossbred population. SNP1, SNP3 and SNP4 (which were subsequently designated regulatory SNPs) and SNP5 were associated with traits that contribute to sensorial and technological measurements of tenderness and texture; Haplotype 1 and haplotype 4 were oppositely correlated with traits contributing to tenderness (P < 0.05). While no single SNP was associated with intramuscular fat (IMF), a clear association with increased IMF and juiciness was observed for haplotype 2. Conclusion The conclusion from this study is that alleles defining haplotypes 2 and 4 could usefully contribute to marker SNP panels used to select individuals with improved IMF/juiciness or tenderness in a genome-assisted selection framework.
    • RNA-seq of muscle from pigs divergent in feed efficiency and product quality identifies differences in immune response, growth, and macronutrient and connective tissue metabolism

      Horodyska, Justyna; Wimmers, Klaus; Reyer, Henry; Trakooljul, Nares; Mullen, Anne Maria; Lawlor, Peadar G; Hamill, Ruth M; European Union; 311794 (Biomed Central, 2018-11-01)
      Background Feed efficiency (FE) is an indicator of efficiency in converting energy and nutrients from feed into a tissue that is of major environmental and economic significance. The molecular mechanisms contributing to differences in FE are not fully elucidated, therefore the objective of this study was to profile the porcine Longissimus thoracis et lumborum (LTL) muscle transcriptome, examine the product quality from pigs divergent in FE and investigate the functional networks underpinning the potential relationship between product quality and FE. Results RNA-Seq (n = 16) and product quality (n = 40) analysis were carried out in the LTL of pigs differing in FE status. A total of 272 annotated genes were differentially expressed with a P < 0.01. Functional annotation revealed a number of biological events related to immune response, growth, carbohydrate & lipid metabolism and connective tissue indicating that these might be the key mechanisms governing differences in FE. Five most significant bio-functions altered in FE groups were ‘haematological system development & function’, ‘lymphoid tissue structure & development’, ‘tissue morphology’, ‘cellular movement’ and ‘immune cell trafficking’. Top significant canonical pathways represented among the differentially expressed genes included ‘IL-8 signalling’, ‘leukocyte extravasation signalling, ‘sphingosine-1-phosphate signalling’, ‘PKCθ signalling in T lymphocytes’ and ‘fMLP signalling in neutrophils’. A minor impairment in the quality of meat, in relation to texture and water-holding capacity, produced by high-FE pigs was observed. High-FE pigs also had reduced intramuscular fat content and improved nutritional profile in terms of fatty acid composition. Conclusions Ontology analysis revealed enhanced activity of adaptive immunity and phagocytes in high-FE pigs suggesting more efficient conserving of resources, which can be utilised for other important biological processes. Shifts in carbohydrate conversion into glucose in FE-divergent muscle may underpin the divergent evolution of pH profile in meat from the FE-groups. Moreover, altered amino acid metabolism and increased mobilisation & flux of calcium may influence growth in FE-divergent muscle. Furthermore, decreased degradation of fibroblasts in FE-divergent muscle could impact on collagen turnover and alter tenderness of meat, whilst enhanced lipid degradation in high-FE pigs may potentially underlie a more efficient fat metabolism in these animals.
    • Salt content and minimum acceptable levels in whole-muscle cured meat products

      Delgado-Pando, Gonzalo; Fischer, Estelle; Allen, Paul; Kerry, Joesph; O'Sullivan, Maurice; Hamill, Ruth; Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine; 11F 026 (Elsevier, 2018-02-01)
      Reported salt levels in whole-muscle cured meat products differ substantially within and among European countries, providing substantial scope for salt reduction across this sector. The objective of this study was to identify the minimum acceptable salt levels in typical whole-muscle cured products in terms of physicochemical, microbial and sensorial properties. Salt levels in a small selection of commercial Irish meat products were determined to establish a baseline for reduction. Subsequently, eight different back bacon rasher and cooked ham products were produced with varying levels of salt: 2.9%, 2.5%, 2% and 1.5% for bacon, and 2%, 1.6%, 1.0% and 0.8% for ham. Salt reduction produced products with significantly harder texture and higher microbial counts, with no difference in the colour and affecting the sensory properties. Nonetheless, salt reduction proved to be feasible to levels of 34% and 19% in bacon and ham products, respectively, compared to baseline.
    • Seaweeds as promising resource of bioactive compounds: Overview of novel extraction strategies and design of tailored meat products

      Gullón, Beatriz; GAGAOUA, Mohammed; Barba, Francisco J.; Gullón, Patricia; Zhang, Wangang; Lorenzo, José M.; Axencia Galega de Innovación; CYTED; Spanish Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness; Generalitat Valenciana; et al. (Elsevier BV, 2020-06)
      Background Meat and meat products have been recently perceived by consumers as unhealthy foods. To avoid this drawback, the reformulation is a feasible approach that allows obtaining custom meat-based products that incorporate compounds with certain beneficial properties for health and remove other attributes considered negative. In this framework, the edible seaweeds have been proposed to offer interesting possibilities in the meat sector to develop functional foods as they are an excellent natural source of nutrients and biocompounds with myriad functionalities. Scope and approach This review collects aspects related to the recent technologies employed to obtain and isolate biocompounds from seaweeds. The use of whole seaweeds and their bioactive extracts to develop meat foods that confer them health properties while simultaneously reducing components considered unhealthy in meat are reviewed. Furthermore, the prevention of oxidation events was also described. Key findings and conclusions Several studies have demonstrated that the incorporation of whole seaweeds and their bioactives to reformulate meat products is an excellent approach to improve certain nutritional aspects considered “bad”. However, there are still some challenges regarding the organoleptic and sensory properties of the resulting products that affect the consumer acceptability. In conclusion, more research is necessary to overcome these gaps allowing put in the market seaweeds -based meat products.
    • Self-association of bovine β-casein as influenced by calcium chloride, buffer type and temperature

      Li, Meng; Auty, Mark; Crowley, Shane V.; Kelly, Alan L.; O'Mahoney, James A.; Brodkorb, Andre; Irish Dairy Levy Research Trust; Teagasc Walsh Fellowship Programme; MDDT 6261 (Elsevier, 2018-09-25)
      The aim of this study was to investigate the aggregation behaviour of a pure β-casein (β-CNpure) and a β-casein concentrate (β-CNconc) as a function of temperature, buffer type (pH 6.8) and the presence of CaCl2. The particle size distribution and turbidity of β-casein (β-CN) dispersions were measured by dynamic light-scattering (DLS) and UV/vis spectroscopy between 4 and 55 °C. Upon heating (4–55 °C), the particle size of both β-CN samples increased, indicating self-association via hydrophobic interactions. It was shown that the self-association of β-CN increased with increasing β-CN concentration and that β-CNpure self-associated at significantly lower concentration than β-CNconc. Both turbidity and particle size measurements showed that the β-CN samples had similar aggregation behaviour in water and imidazole buffer (pH 6.8) but differed in sodium phosphate buffer (pH 6.8), especially at higher ionic calcium concentrations. Fourier Transform Infrared (FTIR) spectroscopy revealed very little change in the secondary structure of β-CN during heating (4–55 °C). The microstructure of β-CN aggregates was monitored during heating from 10 to 55 °C, followed by cooling to 10 °C, using polarised light microscopy. Spherical and heterogeneous aggregates were observed when heated at temperatures above 37 °C, which were reversible upon cooling. This study confirmed that β-CN undergoes self-association on heating that reverses upon cooling, with the aggregation process being highly dependent on the purity of β-CN, the solvent type and the presence of ionic calcium.
    • Semi-supervised linear discriminant analysis

      Toher, Deirdre; Downey, Gerard; Murphy, Thomas Brendan; Science Foundation Ireland; Teagasc (Wiley, 02/07/2012)
      Fisher's linear discriminant analysis is one of the most commonly used and studied classification methods in chemometrics. The method finds a projection of multivariate data into a lower dimensional space so that the groups in the data are well separated. The resulting projected values are subsequently used to classify unlabeled observations into the groups. A semi-supervised version of Fisher's linear discriminant analysis is developed, so that the unlabeled observations are also used in the model fitting procedure. This approach is advantageous when few labeled and many unlabeled observations are available. The semi-supervised linear discriminant analysis method is demonstrated on a number of data sets where it is shown to yield better separation of the groups and improved classification over Fisher's linear discriminant analysis.
    • Sensory optimisation of salt-reduced corned beef for different consumer segments

      Conroy, Paula M.; O'Sullivan, Maurice; Hamill, Ruth; Kerry, Joseph; Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine; 11/F/045 (Elsevier, 2019-03-21)
      The study objectives were to determine assessors' (n = 256) preference for corned beef, produced with sequential reductions in NaCl concentrations and to determine if preference was affected by assessor age. The use of a salt replacer such as potassium lactate was also assessed. The youngest age cohort disliked samples containing the highest level of NaCl, whereas the oldest age cohort did not detect differences between samples. The most negatively perceived sample was the control, suggesting that NaCl levels added to commercial corned beef are currently too high for consumer acceptance. All age cohorts, with the exception of the 65–74 age cohort, accepted corned beef samples possessing NaCl levels closest to the FSAI target (1.63 g/100 g). No major sensory differences were noted between samples with and without potassium lactate by the ≥65 age cohort. Potassium lactate may be added to corned beef without affecting sensory attributes, whilst enhancing nutritional content. Assessors of varying age groups have differing preferences for certain NaCl levels and salt replacers.
    • SNP variation in the promoter of the PRKAG3 gene and association with meat quality traits in pig

      Ryan, Marion T; Hamill, Ruth M; O'Halloran, Aisling M; Davey, Grace C; McBryan, Jean; Mullen, Anne Maria; McGee, Chris; Gispert, Marina; Southwood, Olwen I; Sweeney, Torres; et al. (Biomed Central, 25/07/2012)
      Background: The PRKAG3 gene encodes the γ3 subunit of adenosine monophosphate activated protein kinase (AMPK), a protein that plays a key role in energy metabolism in skeletal muscle. Non-synonymous single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in this gene such as I199V are associated with important pork quality traits. The objective of this study was to investigate the relationship between gene expression of the PRKAG3 gene, SNP variation in the PRKAG3 promoter and meat quality phenotypes in pork. Results: PRKAG3 gene expression was found to correlate with a number of traits relating to glycolytic potential (GP) and intramuscular fat (IMF) in three phenotypically diverse F1 crosses comprising of 31 Large White, 23 Duroc and 32 Pietrain sire breeds. The majority of associations were observed in the Large White cross. There was a significant association between genotype at the g.-311A>G locus and PRKAG3 gene expression in the Large White cross. In the same population, ten novel SNPs were identified within a 1.3 kb region spanning the promoter and from this three major haplotypes were inferred. Two tagging SNPs (g.-995A>G and g.-311A>G) characterised the haplotypes within the promoter region being studied. These two SNPs were subsequently genotyped in larger populations consisting of Large White (n = 98), Duroc (n = 99) and Pietrain (n = 98) purebreds. Four major haplotypes including promoter SNP’s g.-995A>G and g.-311A>G and I199V were inferred. In the Large White breed, HAP1 was associated with IMF% in the M. longissmus thoracis et lumborum (LTL) and driploss%. HAP2 was associated with IMFL% GP-influenced traits pH at 24 hr in LTL (pHULT), pH at 45 min in LTL (pH45LT) and pH at 45 min in the M. semimembranosus muscle (pH45SM). HAP3 was associated with driploss%, pHULT pH45LT and b* Minolta. In the Duroc breed, associations were observed between HAP1 and driploss% and pHUSM. No associations were observed with the remaining haplotypes (HAP2, HAP3 and HAP4) in the Duroc breed. The Pietrain breed was monomorphic in the promoter region. The I199V locus was associated with several GP-influenced traits across all three breeds and IMF% in the Large White and Pietrain breed. No significant difference in promoter function was observed for the three main promoter haplotypes when tested in vitro. Conclusion: Gene expression levels of the porcine PRKAG3 are associated with meat quality phenotypes relating to glycolytic potential and IMF% in the Large White breed, while SNP variation in the promoter region of the gene is associated with PRKAG3 gene expression and meat quality phenotypes.
    • Surface decontamination of meat using thermal processes

      McCann, Máiréad; Sheridan, James J.; Downey, Gerard (Teagasc, 2007-02)
      This study investigated the effectiveness of a novel heat apparatus for decontamination of meat surfaces inoculated with important foodborne pathogens using either steam or dry air.
    • Symposium review: Genomic investigations of flavor formation by dairy microbiota

      McAuliffe, Olivia; Kilcawley, Kieran; Stefanovic, Ewelina; Teagasc Walsh Fellowship programme; Dairy Research Ireland; IRCSET; EU Marie Curie Actions Clarin Co-Fund (Elsevier, 2018-10-19)
      Flavor is one of the most important attributes of any fermented dairy product. Dairy consumers are known to be willing to experiment with different flavors; thus, many companies producing fermented dairy products have looked at culture manipulation as a tool for flavor diversification. The development of flavor is a complex process, originating from a combination of microbiological, biochemical, and technological aspects. A key driver of flavor is the enzymatic activities of the deliberately inoculated starter cultures, in addition to the environmental or “nonstarter” microbiota. The contribution of microbial metabolism to flavor development in fermented dairy products has been exploited for thousands of years, but the availability of the whole genome sequences of the bacteria and yeasts involved in the fermentation process and the possibilities now offered by next-generation sequencing and downstream “omics” technologies is stimulating a more knowledge-based approach to the selection of desirable cultures for flavor development. By linking genomic traits to phenotypic outputs, it is now possible to mine the metabolic diversity of starter cultures, analyze the metabolic routes to flavor compound formation, identify those strains with flavor-forming potential, and select them for possible commercial application. This approach also allows for the identification of species and strains not previously considered as potential flavor-formers, the blending of strains with complementary metabolic pathways, and the potential improvement of key technological characteristics in existing strains, strains that are at the core of the dairy industry. An in-depth knowledge of the metabolic pathways of individual strains and their interactions in mixed culture fermentations can allow starter blends to be custom-made to suit industry needs. Applying this knowledge to starter culture research programs is enabling research and development scientists to develop superior starters, expand flavor profiles, and potentially develop new products for future market expansion.
    • Systematic review of novel processing technologies and ingredients for the reduction of phosphate additives in processed meat.

      Thangavelu, K. P.; Kerry, Joseph P.; Tiwari, Brijesh K; McDonnell, Ciara K; Teagasc Walsh Fellowship Programme (Elsevier, 2019-10-11)
      Background: Phosphate additives are used in many processed foods as stabilisers and emulsifiers. They are present in up to 65% of processed meat products. However, consumer preferences for more natural and less processed foods has resulted in the growth of clean label trends, meaning shorter ingredient declarations using fewer ingredients that are unfamiliar to the consumer. Due to the unique characteristics of phosphates, their removal, while maintaining product quality, is challenging. Scope and Approach: In this review, phosphate additive-types are discussed, with particular emphasis on their application in processed meat products. Through homeostasis, excess phosphate is readily excreted by individuals with healthy kidney function, but it is acknowledged that there is now a desire to find more acceptable ingredient alternatives. The use of alternative, non-synthetic, ingredients in processed meats such as starch, proteins, seaweeds, hydrocolloids and fibres, as potential phosphate replacers are discussed. Such ingredients may not impart the same quality attributes in meat products as provided by phosphates when used singly, however, adopting hurdle approaches of combining alternative ingredients with novel processing technologies, such as power ultrasound and high pressure processing, may provide the meat industry with alternatives. Key findings and conclusions: The key finding of this review is that the interaction between novel technologies and ingredients has not been studied extensively, yet there is evidence for their combined potential. For future studies, non-synthetic ingredients like fibres and starches could be combined with novel processing technologies to improve the interaction between meat proteins and alternative ingredients.
    • Technologies for detecting PSE in pork

      Mullen, Anne Maria; McDonagh, Ciara; Troy, Declan J. (Teagasc, 2003-02)
      The ability of a single, on-line measurement to predict the quality status of an entire muscle or even of a whole carcass was investigated. Variation between pork muscles for on-line measurements of pH, conductivity and colour was evaluated. Intermuscular variation was detected at 24h p ostmortem with higher pH and conductivity values in the topside (M. s emimembranosus) than the striploin (M . longissimus thoracis et lumborum). Correlations showed that a relationship exists between the muscles (r = 0.46-0.88, p<0.05) at 45min and 3h p ostmortem. The location within the topside or the striploin at which the measurements were taken did not influence the result. Shackling did not introduce a significant variation between sides for pH, conductivity and colour values up to 24h p ostmortem, showing measurements could be taken on either side of the carcass.
    • Technology transfer of research results (The 2xtra project)

      McDonagh, Ciara; Byrne, Briege; Troy, Declan J.; Mullen, Anne Maria; Downey, Gerard; European Commission; European Union (Teagasc, 2008-02)
      The 2XTRA project (Technology Transfer Research Results Atlantic Area) was carried out with the aim of promoting economic activity based on research results and technologies developed within universities, research and technology institutes and companies in the European Atlantic Area. This collaborative work was carried out by a strong partnership of 13 entities across this region and included universities, research and technology institutes, private consultants and TBC (technology-based company) incubators. The specific goals of the project were: ● The exchange of information and experiences on technology transfer (TT) with a view to assisting project partners directly and feeding into their regional innovation systems. ● The promotion of new technology-based companies by drawing on collective experiences and developing methodologies relating to - identification and evaluation of business ideas - production of business plans, and - support of early stage companies internationalising. ● The creation of an Atlantic Area Network to support and promote technology-based companies (TBCs) and the technology transfer process. These objectives were achieved through defined activities carried out in three separate stages of this project.
    • Texture of fruit and vegetable components of ready meals

      Downey, Gerard (Teagasc, 2000-12)
      Vegetable and fruit purées are important parts of prepared ready-meals. Further expansion of this food sector will depend among other things on improved and consistent product quality. Innovative organoleptic properties in ready-meal components will assist in product diversification and the growth of market share.
    • Towards More Sustainable Meat Products: Extenders as a Way of Reducing Meat Content

      Pintado, Tatiana; Delgado-Pando, Gonzalo (MDPI AG, 2020-08-03)
      The low efficiency of animal protein (meat products) production is one of the main concerns for sustainable food production. However, meat provides high-quality protein among other compounds such as minerals or vitamins. The use of meat extenders, non-meat substances with high protein content, to partially replace meat, offers interesting opportunities towards the reformulation of healthier and more sustainable meat products. The objective of this review is to give a general point of view on what type of compounds are used as meat extenders and how they affect the physicochemical and sensory properties of reformulated products. Plant-based ingredients (pulses, cereals, tubers and fruits) have been widely used to replace up to 50% of meat. Mushrooms allow for higher proportions of meat substitution, with adequate results in reduced-sodium reformulated products. Insects and by-products from the food industry are novel approaches that present an opportunity to develop more sustainable meat products. In general, the use of meat extenders improves the yield of the products, with slight sensory modifications. These multiple possibilities make meat extenders’ use the most viable and interesting approach towards the production of healthier meat products with less environmental impact.
    • Transcriptome analysis of porcine M. semimembranosus divergent in intramuscular fat as a consequence of dietary protein restriction

      Hamill, Ruth M; Aslan, Ozlem; Mullen, Anne Maria; O'Doherty, John V.; McBryan, Jean; Morris, Dermot G.; Sweeney, Torres; Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Ireland (Biomed Central, 06/07/2013)
      Background: Intramuscular fat (IMF) content is positively correlated with aspects of pork palatability, including flavour, juiciness and overall acceptability. The ratio of energy to protein in the finishing diet of growing pigs can impact on IMF content with consequences for pork quality. The objective of this study was to compare gene expression profiles of Musculus semimembranosus (SM) of animals divergent for IMF as a consequence of protein dietary restriction in an isocaloric diet. The animal model was derived through the imposition of low or high protein diets during the finisher stage in Duroc gilts. RNA was extracted from post mortem SM tissue, processed and hybridised to Affymetrix porcine GeneChip® arrays. Results: IMF content of SM muscle was increased on the low protein diet (3.60 ± 0.38% versus 1.92 ± 0.35%). Backfat depth was also greater in animals on the low protein diet, and average daily gain and feed conversion ratio were lower, but muscle depth, protein content and moisture content were not affected. A total of 542 annotated genes were differentially expressed (DE) between animals on low and high protein diets, with 351 down-regulated and 191 up-regulated on the low protein diet. Transcript differences were validated for a subset of DE genes by qPCR. Alterations in functions related to cell cycle, muscle growth, extracellular matrix organisation, collagen development, lipogenesis and lipolysis, were observed. Expression of adipokines including LEP, TNFα and HIF1α were increased and the hypoxic stress response was induced. Many of the identified transcriptomic responses have also been observed in genetic and fetal programming models of differential IMF accumulation, indicating they may be robust biological indicators of IMF content. Conclusion: An extensive perturbation of overall energy metabolism in muscle occurs in response to protein restriction. A low protein diet can modulate IMF content of the SM by altering gene pathways involved in lipid biosynthesis and degradation; however this nutritional challenge negatively impacts protein synthesis pathways, with potential consequences for growth.
    • Using induced chlorophyll production to monitor the physiological state of stored potatoes (Solanum tuberosum L.)

      Garnett, Jessica; Wellner, Nikolaus; Mayes, Andrew G; Downey, Gerard; Kemsley, E.K.; Teagasc Walsh fellowship Programme; Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, U.K.; 2014028 (Elsevier, 2018-08-04)
      A Visible/Near-infrared (Vis/NIR) spectrometer equipped with a fibre-optic probe was used to stimulate and measure chlorophyll production in potato tubers, at low levels that produce no visible greening in the skin. Subtle responses to changes in the light stimulus were also tracked. When used with a static experimental setup, these measurements are precise. However, the technique is very sensitive to the exact geometry of the tuber-probe arrangement, and careful positioning of the probe is crucial. Complementary studies established that tissue under the apical buds (‘eyes’) has greater capacity to produce chlorophyll than other locations on the tuber surface. A long-term study of multiple tubers suggested that different cultivars behave differently in terms of the rate of chlorophyll production. These behavioural differences may be related to the batch dormancy status; validating this potential relationship is the focus of ongoing work.
    • Using ultrasound to measure beef tenderness and fat content

      Allen, Paul; Dwyer, Catherine; Mullen, Anne Maria; Buckin, Vitaly; Smyth, Cormac; Morrissey, Siobhan (Teagasc, 2001-04)
      A new acoustical technique was developed for the quantitative analysis of the texture and composition of meat and meat products. This new approach exploits the fact that the acoustical velocity and attenuation of waves propagated through meat are affected by its mechanical properties, thus allowing characterisation in terms of its composition and eating quality. The method is based on a new high-resolution ultrasonic resonator. This technique is rapid and uses small samples. Procedures for the acoustical analysis of meat were developed and the results were correlated with taste panel and shear force measurements of meat tenderness.
    • Variation in the quality of meat from Irish steers at the time of slaughter.

      Moloney, Aidan P; Mullen, Anne Maria; Maher, S.C.; Buckley, D.J.; Kerry, Joseph P. (Teagasc, 01/01/2004)
      There is no information on the variation in quality, in particular tenderness, that exists in Irish Beef nor is there information on the variation that would remain if optimum practices were imposed at all stages of the beef production chain. Evaluation of the success of measures to improve beef consistency requires information on existing variation and the minimum variation achievable.The objectives of this project were (i) to establish the variation that exists in the quality of meat from Irish cattle, (ii) to quantify the minimum variation in meat quality that can be achieved in a practical beef production system, (iii) to determine the effects and mechanisms of additional sources of variation. The conclusions from this project are: • The M. longissimus dorsi (loin) was found to be more variable than the M. semimembranosus (topside) for most quality attributes examined (tenderness, sarcomere length and pH). The scale of variation within the loin was similar to that reported by the other research groups within the EU and US. Heifers were more variable than steers for most attributes, while there was no consistent classification effect on the variability of meat quality attributes. • Tenderness was equally variable in meat from genetically similar steers, managed similarly, compared to commercial steers randomly selected from a factory lairage but matched for weight and grade.This was likely a result of both groups being crossbred beef cattle of similar age, fat score, carcass weight and managed identically post-mortem. However, variation in tenderness of both groups was less than that observed in a survey of commercial throughput (experiment 1). This decrease is attributed to better pre-and-post-slaughter handling practices. • The data suggest that selection of sires (within a breed) with better than average conformation has no deleterious effect on the eating quality of beef of their progeny.A more comprehensive comparison of sires within a breed and between breeds is required to confirm the generality of this conclusion. • In a comparison of genotypes, gender and slaughter weights, there was no evidence that variation around the mean value for tenderness differed between breeds or liveweights after 14 days ageing. Bulls were more variable than steers for some quality traits but the variation in tenderness was similar for bulls and steers after 14 days ageing. • While optimising the management of animals during the pre and post-slaughter period reduced variation in tenderness, some residual variation remained. A large percentage of the residual variation in tenderness (Warner Bratzler shear force) after 2 and 7 days post-mortem was explained by proteolysis (breakdown of myofibrillar proteins).Variation in tenderness (Warner Bratzler shear force) after 2 days post-mortem was largely explained by phosphates (energy) and proteolysis, while sensory tenderness was largely explained by phosphates and glycolytic potential. • Further work is required to reduce residual variation in Irish beef and to determine the causes of this variation.