Effect of Muscle Ultimate pH on Meat Tenderness

It was shown (106) that mutton with a very high ultimate pH—greater than 6.5—was more tender than mutton of a normal low ultimate pH, and that meat with a moderately elevated ultimate pH was tougher than normal. The latter observation has also been consistently found with bulls and steers (107). Studies using lamb that had been electrically stimulated showed a similar pattern of toughness in moderate-pH animals (Fig. 8) (108). In the range pH 5.5 to pH 5.9, toughness increases sharply. Therefore, small differences in ultimate pH can easily result in "rogue" tenderness results in any experimental situation.

As ultimate pH values are rarely measured routinely during meat processing, and then only with the aim of excluding those animals with pH values over 6.0, the signif icance of factors that increase the ultimate pH even slightly has not been generally considered. It was suggested (107) that short sarcomere lengths as a consequence of moderate-pH effects were related to increasing toughness. When aging of meat was prevented by injections of zinc salts, the initial toughness of high medium and low pH meat was the same (109). The rate of tenderization of (non-zinc-injected) intermediate pH meat was slowest, suggesting that aging rate rather than toughness is an intrinsic property of high-pH meat (108). This observation is supported by the reduced disappearance of nebulin and ti-tin at these intermediate-pH values (110). This suggests that high-pH meat can tenderize if aging is long enough, but there were still some outliers. It appears that other factors still influence tenderness, and the enzymes responsible for tenderization may be affected by rigor temperature and pH in some way (53).

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