CONTEXT : The present study investigated the effects of several electrical-stimulation parameters with conventional chilling of heavy- and light-grade carcasses from commercial feedlot cattle on selected meat-quality attributes.
AIMS : The aim was to determine the combination of electrical-stimulation parameters that produced the most desirable results in terms of meat quality, which will serve as a guide to processors seeking to enact best processes in the meat industry.
METHODS : Low-voltage electrical stimulation (110 V peak, 17 pulses/s, 5-ms pulse width) was applied either early post-mortem (PM) at 7 min or late PM at 45 min, for either 30 or 60 s on steer carcasses (n = 98) divided into two weight categories (light (≤260 kg) and heavy (≥290 kg) grades). The Longissimus lumborum muscle was evaluated for sarcomere length, myofibril fragment length (MFL), calpain-1, calpastatin, shear force and drip loss (3 and 14 days PM).
KEY RESULTS : There were no significant differences in sarcomere length and no sarcomere shortening was observed. There were minor inconsistencies where early stimulation coincided with marginally longer MFL at 3 and 14 days PM, while late stimulation produced the shortest MFL at 14 days PM. Higher decline in calpain-1 concentration (mean 36.2%) was recorded in the early stimulated carcasses compared with the late stimulated carcasses (mean 29.7%) from 1 to 24 h PM, while calpastatin concentration decreased at a similar rate (mean 24%). Early stimulation resulted in lower shear force (P < 0.05) at 3 days PM, especially in the heavier carcasses, indicating that higher initial temperature did accelerate tenderisation. At 14 days PM, there were no significant differences in shear force as regards stimulation time or carcass weight. Higher drip loss was however recorded in the early stimulated carcasses.
CONCLUSIONS : Early application of low-voltage electrical stimulation produced faster tenderisation early PM, due to higher rigor temperature, but, after aging for 14 days, all meat was acceptably tender with a lower variability, regardless of the stimulation time and carcass weight. Higher drip loss was associated with higher tenderness, which is normal and not a defect.
IMPLICATIONS : The use of low-voltage electrical stimulation should be encouraged for its ability to reduce variability in meat quality due to carcass-weight differences, especially in the current feedlot systems.