History

The association between meat and electricity dates back to some of the earliest muscle physiology experiments (1). From Galvani's time, the use of electricity to study muscle function increased. The earliest reported use of electricity for meat improvement is its purported use by Benjamin Franklin in 1749 to electrocute turkeys with the result that they were "uncommonly tender" (2). In the 1950s the use of electrical stimulation as a means of improving tenderness of meat was investigated, but no commercial application of the process occurred then (3,4).

Electrical stimulation has been extensively used since the 1950s to hasten rigor mortis and to modify steps of the glycolytic pathway. Stimulation of horse muscle was used to facilitate a trial of microbial growth on prerigor and rigor muscles from the same animal (5). Others since have used it to modify and study steps of the glycolytic pathway (6). Landrace pigs were used to demonstrate that electrical stimulation accelerated the postmortem pH fall in normally slow glycolyzing muscles but produced no change in faster glycolyzing muscles (7). The principle was also used to predict the time course of rigor mortis (8).

The revived interest in electrical stimulation as an element of meat processing stems from the facts that it hastens development of rigor mortis (9-11), increases the rate of tenderization by postmortem aging (12,13), improves meat color (14), and provides an increased stiffness to muscles that can be of value for early boning.

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