Tenderometers

When meat is sheared in a tenderometer, the toothlike device or blade deforms the meat, essentially producing yield data for the cooked myofibrillar proteins with some contribution from the collagen. For all practical purposes, changes in the tenderness of meat from the same muscle correspond to changes in myofibrillar tenderness. A wide range of tenderometer devices have been developed and all have faults, but they yield useful information even though not accounting for all possible contributions to tenderness. The devices have been reviewed (70,71).

Only a few major basic designs of tenderometers are in current use (72). In the Warner Bratzler device, cylindrical or rectangular samples are placed in a triangular hole in a shear blade (some modifications use square-sectioned material in a square hole). There are a variety of tooth-shaped biting devices [Volodkevitch type toothed jaws, and a pneumatic tenderometer with toothlike jaws (MIRINZ tenderometer)] that are very similar in concept. In an Allo-Kramer shear press, there is a compression cell with an array of blades to penetrate the meat. Other measurements can also be made that indicate the contribution of connective tissue to toughness, such as the measurement of adhesion between fibers (72).

One difficulty of comparing tenderometer data is that no one has standardized the readings from the various types of tenderometers; thus, at present, each research group is unique in its presentation of data, although some attempt has been made to standardize them (73). All tenderometers work on cooked meat, and no group has yet devised a completely successful instrument for measuring raw meat characteristics that can be extrapolated to predict cooked meat values. There is potential in the use of near infrared spectroscopy where there is a correlation between measured tenderness values (74) and connective tissue solubility and concentration (75), from raw meat and predicted instrumental values, but such measurements only will estimate the tenderness at the time of measurement. From the preceding comments on meat conditioning, aging, and connective tissue changes during cooking, such correlations related to tenderness would need to consider time delays before consumption, as meat tenderness depends on various unpredictable aging treatments once product has left the meat plant. Any control of product is ultimately lost due to unpredictable handling by the consumer, but it should be acceptable at purchase. A noninvasive device applied to raw meat would be extremely valuable at this point.

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