Collagen Turnover

Collagen turnover varies considerably between tissues, and the relative growth rates of different muscles result in different levels of maturity of the collagen in a given animal (2). Similarly, differences in growth rates of bulls, steers, and double-muscled animals result in differences in both the amount of collagen and its maturity in terms of stable cross-links (2). Although the faster growth rate of bulls compared with steers would suggest that bull meat should be more tender, the rate of collagen turnover may well be different in bulls and allow earlier maturation of the bull collagen. On the other hand, the reported toughness of bull meat may arise from other factors, such as absence of intramuscular fat, which changes perceptions of tenderness during actual chewing, and sex effects such as an increased stress susceptibility and consequent elevation of muscle pH (see the section "Animal Factors Affecting Meat Quality"). Rapid finishing of animals appears to increase tenderness, which could be accounted for by a higher proportion of newly synthesized and consequently immature collagen being laid down. Possibly, larger amounts of intramuscular fat may also modify taste panel perceptions, by causing a smaller cross-sectional area of myofibrillar and collagen protein in any given bite.

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