Conversion of Muscle to Meat

Meat is the common term used to describe the edible portion of animal tissues and any processed or manufactured products prepared from these tissues. Meats are often classified by the type of animal from which they are taken. Red meat refers to the meat taken from mammals; white meat refers to the meat taken from fowl; seafood refers to the meat taken from fish and shellfish; and game refers to meat taken from animals that are not commonly domesticated. In addition, most commonly consumed meats are specifically identified by the live animal from which they come. Beef refers to the meat from cattle, veal from calves, pork from hogs, lamb from young sheep, and mutton from sheep older than two years. It is with these latter types of red meat that this section is concerned.

Meat is a very complex product that can be affected by antemortem and postmortem factors. Components of the muscle itself, like contractile proteins and connective tissue affect the characteristics of the final product whether it is a steak or a hot dog. Knowledge of the structure of the muscle and how muscle is converted into meat helps us to understand what affects the tenderness and processing characteristics of the meat. Many factors influence the tenderness of meat. The development of rigor motris greatly affects meat tenderness. Muscle, if obtained very soon after death, would be more tender than if the meat were allowed to go into rigor mortis. Many factors affecting the extent of rigor and the speed at which rigor develops also influence tenderness.

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