Thursday, March 10, 2011

Aging and Rigor Mortis

By: Suharyanto

CARCASSES of large animals, such as cattle, buffalo, horses, etc. are usually aged/conditioned. Aging is the handling of carcasses by hanging or storing in a hygienic place. Aging can be either at room temperatures or at 15oC. During aging, there will be increasing tenderness and flavor of meat and finishing the physiological process of postmortem muscle.

The physiological process that must happen is rigor mortis, which is a muscle stiffness that occurs after the slaughter. The process of the stiffness is an irreversible muscle contraction. When the meat obtained from carcasses that still rigor mortis, the meat will feel more tough/hard. Therefore, this process must go through rigor mortis.

Aging by hanging carcasses will reduce the shortening of muscle due to rigor mortis. Physically, hanging carcasses cause gravity to hold the process of muscle contraction. In addition, aging provides an opportunity for proteolytic enzymes to degrade protein fibers making the meat tenderer.

Rigor mortis process must be considered because mishandling can affect the quality of meat. Pre rigor or rigor carcasses stored at the frozen, then thawed, there will be a great shrinkage up to 50% because of rigor mortis return (thaw rigor). Thaw rigor causes carcass or meat size is much smaller than its original size. Therefore, freezing of carcasses or meat are usually applied on post-rigor state. Considering the nature of rigor mortis, aging is better applied at temperatures between 15-16oC. At this temperature, rigor mortis can still take place so when the carcass or meat is thawed, it will not shorten. Aging on the low temperature will cause shrinkage (cold shortening). Temperatures below 15oC will delay meat rigor process, and when thawed, rigor mortis will be back continued followed by shrinkage of carcass/meat.[]


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