Meat Science

Many factors can affect meat quality on the way from producer to consumer. Meat Science is a broad research field where these factors are evaluated in relation to a range of production and quality parameters. Meat quality means different things to different people. Of course it is related to whether you are a meat producer, are involved in the slaughter or meat processing industry, a chef at a restaurant or just a "normal" consumer. One way to describe the term meat quality looks like this:

  • The hygienic and toxicological quality of meat is about safety, if the meat is safe to eat and if it is free from added substances like growth hormones and antibiotics. And also free from microorganisms and the toxins they can produce.
  • The nutritional quality describes the content of protein, fat, vitamins and minerals in the meat.
  • Technological quality is a way of determining the functional properties of meat, both as fresh, whole meat cuts and as a raw material for further processing (e.g. smoking, drying manufacturing of sausages).
  • Sensory quality is the kind of attributes we experience with our senses; how the meat looks, smells, tastes and how tender and juicy it is.
  • Ethical quality is important for many consumers when they purchase meat or meat products. Questions about production methods, feeding and slaughter are essential and many consumers already value meat from animals kept in free-ranging systems based on grazing (like reindeer) as a more "ecological " product compared with the commercial production of beef, pork and chicken.

Already before the animal is born it is possible through breeding and genetics to influence e.g. how much meat (muscles) there will be on the carcass and how stress-sensitive the animals are. Animal management at the farm, various feeding systems used and the handling routines in connection with slaughter are all very important factors for meat quality. After slaughter it is crucial that the carcass will be chilled, that the meat is allowed to tenderize in an optimal way and that boning and processing are well adapted to the various products produced. Finally, the cooking technique used is of course also important for the quality of the meat. Even if the production chain has functioned perfectly and the quality of the steak you want to prepare is the best possible, it is easy to destroy this quality if the wrong cooking method is used.

Projects
Most reindeer producers in Alaska use an extensive management system where animals are allowed to free-range over large designated grazing ranges on the Seward Peninsula, St Lawrence and Nunivak Islands and the Aleutian Chain. These ranges are large and remote with no or limited availability of slaughtering, processing and transportation infrastructure. Some reindeer producers want to shift the management and location of their operations to more intensively managed farms in Interior Alaska to utilize cereal grain and forage production, slaughtering facilities, and transportation and distribution networks. Currently voluntary state inspection is utilized for reindeer field-slaughter but a federal inspection program is in the process of being initiated. Therefore it is anticipated that more meat from Alaska's reindeer herd will be marketed to consumers and restaurants where questions about meat quality and sensory attributes will arise. To address these questions, research in reindeer meat quality started at RRP in 2003. Currently a number of different meat quality attributes are evaluated within the following projects:

Contact Information
Reindeer Research Program
Page Last Modified: 11/10/16 3:52 pm by: dsblodgett@alaska.edu