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Meat Quality Analysis: Advanced Evaluation Methods, Techniques, and Technologies

Meat Quality Analysis: Advanced Evaluation Methods, Techniques, and Technologies

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Meat Quality Analysis: Advanced Evaluation Methods, Techniques, and Technologies

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Aug 21, 2019


Meat Quality Analysis: Advanced Evaluation Methods, Techniques, and Technologies takes a modern approach to identify a compositional and nutritional analysis of meat and meat products, post-mortem aging methods, proteome analysis for optimization of the aging process, lipid profiles, including lipid mediated oxidations, meat authentication and traceability, strategies and detection techniques of potential food-borne pathogens, pesticide and drug residues, including antimicrobial growth promoters, food preservatives and additives, and sensory evaluation techniques. This practical reference will be extremely useful to researchers and scientists working in the meat industry, but will also be valuable to students entering fields of meat science, quality and safety.

  • Presents focused detection techniques for reducing or eliminating foodborne pathogens from meat
  • Includes strategies and methods on how to better understand meat authenticity and traceability, including meat speciation
  • Provides tables, figures and illustrations to facilitate a better understanding of techniques and methods
Aug 21, 2019

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Meat Quality Analysis - Academic Press


Section 1

Current perspectives of meat quality evaluation


Chapter 1 Current perspectives of meat quality evaluation: techniques, technologies, and challenges

Chapter 1

Current perspectives of meat quality evaluation: techniques, technologies, and challenges

Ashim Kumar Biswas¹ and Prabhat Kumar Mandal²,    ¹Division of Post-Harvest Technology, ICAR-Central Avian Research Institute, Izatnagar, Bareilly, India,    ²Department of Livestock Products Technology, Rajiv Gandhi Institute of Veterinary Education and Research, Puducherry, India


Meat quality and safety are highly relevant issues for the meat industry worldwide as they are directly linked to public health and welfare. Consumers want the meat they eat to not only taste better but also be safe, nutritious, and have an extended shelf life. Thus consumers’ concern about the meat food quality has led to the development and application of analytical techniques for the evaluation of meat quality and safety. Over the years many analytical techniques have been developed but very few of them find routes for industrial applications. The meat industry needs reliable techniques for meat quality evaluation in order to certify and keep guaranteed trust marks on the packaging. Indeed both the meat industry and researchers are now facing complex challenges to comply with consumers’ demands on quality. Conventional techniques are golden tests but not selective enough, and also suffer from overcomplexity and are not meet compliance with the regulations. So the aim of this chapter is to focus on the current state of meat quality evaluation, substantiated with background information, along with a brief description of advanced meat quality evaluation techniques. This chapter also discusses the major challenges encountered in the application of advanced meat quality evaluation techniques.


Meat quality analysis; image processing; sensors; array; proteomics; genomics; meat traceability; food additives; preservatives; rapid methods; spectroscopy; NMR; chromatography

Chapter Outline

1.1 Introduction 3

1.2 Techniques and technologies 5

1.2.1 Nutritional composition 5

1.2.2 Physical and structural quality 6

1.2.3 Meat traceability and authentication 7

1.2.4 Food preservatives and additives 9

1.2.5 Freshness and pathogen identification 9

1.2.6 Chemical contaminants 10

1.2.7 Sensory quality 12

1.3 Challenges 13

References 15

1.1 Introduction

The meat we eat is an integral component of the human diet. It contains essential nutrients which help to maintain normal physiological functions, improve immunity, and prevent certain diseases including malnutrition. When such foods contain unauthorized chemicals or do not meet the required standards for nutritional composition, sensory properties, food preservatives, microbial pathogens, residues of pesticides, veterinary drugs, and/or heavy metals, potential health risks for consumers may arise. The consumers’ requirements are healthful muscle foods that not only taste good but are also safe, fresh, natural, and contain fewer chemical additives, such as preservatives. However, all these conditions can be organized into quality criteria indexed to physical, chemical, and microbial properties that can be objectively quantified through robust and sensitive techniques. The traditional approach of meat analysis using mechanical and chemical methods was robust, but all of the methods suffered from overcomplexity. Although the experienced inspectors carrying out meat quality evaluations ensure that the occurrence of misclassifications is rare, this manual method is subjective, time-consuming, and thus not suitable for online monitoring (Xiong et al., 2017). So to overcome this deficiency of the traditional methods and to satisfy the regulatory requirements, modern technologies are to be applied in meat quality evaluation since they are robust, sensitive, selective, qualitative, and quantitative. These techniques may use cost-intensive sophisticated instruments at cutting edge labs, but often they can be fabricated locally using only simple probes derived from those labs. Meat processors outfitted with these kinds of probes could gain tighter process control for production feasibility, quality sorting, and automation and thus provide consumers with certified products bearing quality seals and trust marks (Damez and Clerjon, 2012).

Thus in meat science the meat quality analysis actually integrates systematically all branches of science including mathematical science in order to explain the modest characteristics of meat. Meat quality analysis therefore exploits the basic principles and applications of various advanced techniques since meat science is no longer simply an academic discipline. The impact of this knowledge has also penetrated to the molecular level for better evaluation of meat quality using genome analysis, proteomics tools, sensor-based techniques, DNA microarray techniques, and loop-mediated isothermal amplifications (LAMP). Further, the spectacular technological advances and the rapid expansion of scientific knowledge have revolutionized our understanding of biological processes for the production of safe meat products. Thus many in the scientific community have the belief that the meat industry will become a prominent industry in the coming era.

There is a diverse array of meat quality analysis for which analytical chemistry plays a crucial role, including the identification of meat enzymes or protein markers for optimizing meat maturation; assessing structural integrity including morphology, physical, biophysical characteristics; sensory properties including meat color development; the detection of adulterants and product tempering; meat authenticity; the characterization of the chemical composition of meat; the impact of production and processing practices on the generation or inactivation of toxic chemicals; the compliance with food and trade laws to ensure safety and traceability; thermal properties; and microbiological impedance. All of these analyses have critical roles in assuring product safety, quality, and palatability. Further, in recent years, it has been intimidated one health program since animal foods are directly linked with the human health. Thus meat is considered today not only a source of essential nutrients but also an affordable way to prevent future diseases.

To tackle these problems a numbers of opportunities have been sought in various ways that are quite impressive, for example, a tailor-made meat product given to a particular group of people to promote health and well-being based on their genome sequences (Herrero et al., 2012). Another well-known technique, proteomics, is the study of the proteome, the protein complement of the genome that is expressed, and modified following expression, by the entire genome in the lifetime of a cell. Today proteomics is a scientific discipline that promises to bridge the gap between our understanding of the genome sequence and cellular behavior. It can be viewed as more of a biological assay or tool for determining gene function. Thus the application of omics technologies such as genomics, proteomics, foodomics, nutrigenomics, and metagenomics may solve certain problems that were untouchable until a few years ago. But success for the application of all these new advanced technologies is reliant on the depth of knowledge in the relevant area and the requirement to use this knowledge in a rational manner.

Thus meat quality evaluation is considered as an important area to assure the quality and safety of finished products. This chapter will discuss the emerging techniques and technologies employed in meat quality analysis together with the current difficulties and future challenges.

1.2 Techniques and technologies

1.2.1 Nutritional composition

The importance of nutritional levelling of fresh and finished products is high for informing and guiding the consumers about the quality of products since many literature reports have indicated the negative influence of nutrition on health. It has been implicated that high fat intake aggravates the risk of coronary heart diseases, cancers, atherosclerosis, etc., while high glucose and sodium (salt) intakes give rise to the risks of diabetes and hypertension, respectively. On the other hand the intake of high amounts of fiber, prebiotics, antioxidants, certain vitamins, and minerals ameliorate the negative effects. X-ray imaging, particularly dual X-ray energy imaging (DXA), offers useful capabilities for successful evaluation of meat quality in terms of fat, bone, and lean meat content and has been in use for 30 years in the meat industry, though now it seems to be a slow measurement technique (Mercier et al., 2006). Nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) techniques are now also in use (Clerjon and Bonny, 2011; Xiong et al., 2017) and NMR microimaging on meat samples has the capability to quantitatively characterize the fat, in addition to its inherent function for checking meat quality. The MRI method uses the principle of diffusion-weighted imaging of muscle for the determination of apparent diffusion coefficients of myofibers and lipids. Ultrasound works on the principle of analyzing the acoustic parameters of waves propagating in a medium.

Most of the applications of ultrasound imaging so far have been concentrated on predicting the body composition of live animals, including intramuscular fat percentage, lean content, and fat tissue thickness (Xiong et al., 2017). Ultrasound has the capability to assess and characterize the muscle samples based on acoustic wave propagation through meat. For example, if acoustic waves are propagating through fat and collagen, they produce different waves and this helps in discriminating different muscle types on the basis of fat and collagen content (Morlein et al., 2005). Similarly the near infrared spectroscopy (NIRS) technique has been successfully deployed for rapid nondestructive determination of fatty acid composition in dry-cured sausages (Fernandez-Cabanas et al., 2011). Recently several image processing techniques (MRI, fluorescence imaging, hyperspectral imaging, thermal imaging) were developed and also applied for the determination of muscular tissue (Veberg et al., 2006; Burfoot et al., 2011; Adedeji et al., 2011; Yang et al., 2010). All of these image processing techniques were applied for the determination of the chemical composition of meat from all species with a great degree of variation in success. However, thermal image processing techniques were focused on temperature differences over a large range, which is an indirect method for the determination of the surface fat covering of carcasses, since lower the surface temperature indicated then the lower the fat covering (Costa et al., 2010). Salt distribution analysis in salted meat products by the use of X-ray computed tomography was also a major application (Segtnan et al., 2009), while micro- and macronutrients (protein, fat, amino acid, fatty acid, organic acid, vitamins, minerals) can be detected using DXA imaging, infrared spectroscopy, and nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy (Damez and Clerjon, 2012).

1.2.2 Physical and structural quality

In meat processing the determination of physical and structural quality is of the utmost importance for the proper merchandizing of the finished produce. The meat industry around the globe is seeking quick and accurate methods for authenticating quality and keeping trust marks on the packaging to maintain consumers’ faith in finished products. Recently Damez and Clerjon (2008) reviewed some fast and robust invasive and noninvasive biophysical techniques for predicting the structural quality of meat. These can be used for the measurement of meat components (collagen content, marbling, water content, fat content, specific proteins detection, salt content, water holding capacity, PSE (pale, soft exudative), DFD (dark, firm, dry), etc.) or their organization (collagen organization, collagen typing, fat organization, myofiber organization, myofiber spacing, myofiber diameter, myofiber density, myofilaments structure changes, Z line degradation, sarcomere length, endomysium structure, etc.), either directly or by calculating them indirectly using the correlations between one or several biophysical measurements and meat components’ properties. All these measurements are based on either mechanical, optical, or electrical probing or by using ultrasonic measurements, electromagnetic waves, NMR, near infrared (NIR), and so on. For safety aspects the detection of physical particles like bone fragments, woods, metal, and glasses using ultrasound, X-rays, and image processing techniques was documented (Damez and Clerjon, 2012).

Proteomic tools are now being applied to investigate the proteome changes induced due to compensatory growth in pigs, different preslaughter stressors (Lametsch et al., 2006), postslaughter handling, processing, etc. The lean color is crucial in merchandizing of meat since it may affects due to alterations in the proteome myoglobin (Mb). The dynamics of meat color stability is due to the primary structure of Mb which is mediated via autoxidation, heme retention, structural stability, thermostability, and oxygen affinity. The interactions of pH, temperature, and postmortem time also affect the biochemical dynamics of early Mb discoloration and hence the meat color. Furthermore, variations in the amino acid sequence of Mb influence meat color stability through species-specific interactions with small biomolecules like lactate and aldehydes. For Mb, a heme protein with different redox states, this is extremely critical, because Mb stability and the aforementioned molecular interactions govern meat color/color stability (Sayd et al., 2006).

Similarly the results of proteomic study have revealed that changes of proteins occurred in muscle during postmortem storage. A total of 15 proteins were changed, some increasing and some decreasing in abundance after slaughter. Several of these proteins were identified as fragments of structural proteins such as actin, myosin heavy chain, and troponin T (Hwang et al., 2005). The calpain system is believed to be important for the degradation of myofibrillar proteinsand thereby improves tenderness. The activity of calpain system was elucidated via a proteome study in pork LD muscle for the identification of myofibrillar substrates for μ-calpain (Lametsch et al., 2004). Changes in metabolic protein composition in biopsies from live animals to postmortem samples collected shortly after slaughter in the cattle LD muscle revealed that 24 protein spots were changed (Jia et al., 2006). This reflects the contribution of several factors such as transportation, lairage, stunning, exsanguination, and dehiding on the LD muscle proteome. Identification of the proteins by MALDI-TOF/TOF MS revealed that a wide range of metabolic enzymes and stress proteins increased in abundance after slaughter.

1.2.3 Meat traceability and authentication

Meat authenticity and traceability are important for the labeling and assessment of value, and are therefore necessary to avoid unfair competition in the meat trade and also to assure consumers of safety. In recent years there has been an unprecedented growth in digital literacy, and with this several innovative IT-based tools have been developed and used in the meat processing sector throughout the world. These IT tools assist in evaluating pre- and postslaughter carcass/meat quality and ensure traceability through online computerized data acquisition without the intervention of human errors. Since during meat production animals are routed through different intermediaries, for example, traders, retailers, processors, quality control inspectors, local bodies, it is necessary to bring them under single umbrella so as to judiciously locate the supplies and demands of livestock and meat. The IT-based tools have the potential to provide integrative platforms for the public, corporations, traders, and the government that would enable real-time analysis for helping in decision-making, generating benefits for all stakeholders. It has been reported that IT-based image analysis was used for carcass grading, predicting meat quality, and carcass yield (Tan, 2004). Visoli et al. (2011) developed a spatial decision support system enabling traceability systems that involved automatic recording, several times a day, of an animal at different locations, coupled with system analysis for the decision-making by stakeholders, validation, and hypothesis testing. Furthermore, Mishra et al. (2015) developed a label-free impedimetric immunosensor for the detection of Escherichia coli in water. These IT-based analytical tools enable the production feasible, quality shorting and improved product performances in real time and in a most economical and user-friendly manner in the meat industry.

The adulteration or falsification of meat and its possible substitution with poor quality meat or even nonmeat ingredients represent a problem, since unauthorized use of meat or nonmeat ingredients not only give rise to allergic reactions in sensitive individuals, but also damage religious sentiment and quality. This adulteration of meat is misleading the people, causing them to lose their faith in packaged food items. Thus accurate labeling of meat and its products is important in order to safeguard consumers as well as for the sustainability of the meat industry, in addition to meeting the commitments of foreign trade. Several analytical tools have been developed, including physical, anatomical, histological, chemical, biological or serological or immunological, electrophoresis, chromatography, and molecular techniques, and these techniques use a diverse range of equipment with variable degrees of satisfactory results.

Molecular or PCR-based techniques offer greater flexibility and usefulness as compared to others (Vaithiyanathan and Vishnuraj, 2018), since these methods use the amplification of targeted DNA which has conserved gene sequences (Kocher et al., 1989). The digital PCR is gaining wider popularity, as in this method a sample is diluted and partitioned into hundreds to millions of separate reaction chambers, each containing one or no copies of the gene sequence of interest (Baker, 2012). Further development was done to ascertain species speciation with the introduction of droplet digital polymerase chain reaction (Ren et al., 2017). This measures absolute quantities by counting nucleic acid molecules encapsulated in discrete, volumetrically defined water-in-oil droplet partitions. The assay combines water–oil emulsion droplet technology with microfluidics. Later a DNA microarray, popularly known as a low-cost and low-density (LCD) array, was introduced for the simultaneous detection of 32 species of meat samples. This array is based on classical PCR followed by LCD array hybridization. Lateral flow tests, otherwise known as dipstick tests, were also developed for on-site in-time verification of meat samples. The applied tests were capable of detecting small quantities of pork, beef, mutton, and poultry in industrial canned meat products (Biswas and Kondaiah, 2014).

1.2.4 Food preservatives and additives

The use of food preservatives is not new; rather the development and application of these compounds has increased with the diversity and progress of meat science. Food preservatives are generally used for the retention of lean color, flavor, odor, texture, etc., and these arrays are interrelated with the factors like temperature, relative humidity, atmospheric oxygen pressure, light, endogenous enzymes, and microbial loads, which actually lead to the spoilage or decay of meat and meat products. While food additives are substances that are not normally consumed as food or not used as a basic food ingredient, they are often used for technological purposes to improve quality. The common additives in meat include antioxidants, binders, emulsifiers, antimicrobials, curing ingredients and cure accelerators, flavoring agents, and coloring agents. However, the consumption of all these ingredients may lead to potential health implications, particularly when present in concentrations greater than the legal thresholds. Thus the use of additives and preservatives in meat requires a stringent food safety policy. So to comply with the requirements many national agencies and international organizations are harmonizing methods to identify and quantify various food additives and preservatives in fresh meat and processed products. However, often the chemical analysis of high concentrations of fats, oils, lipids, proteins, carbohydrates, polysaccharides, salts, surfactants, pigments, emulsions, and many other constituents present in meat is challenging. Thus to overcome the issues several pretreatment methods like homogenization, dilution, centrifugation, distillation, simple solvent extraction, supercritical fluid extraction, stir-bar sorptive extraction, pressurized-fluid extraction, microwave-assisted extraction, and Soxhlet extraction have been developed to remove the maximum possible amounts of interfering compounds (Martins et al., 2018). Although spectrometric and colorimetric methods are widely used for the detection and quantification of many additives and preservatives, the recent strategies are the use of chromatography techniques, mass spectrometry (MS) methods, electrophoresis, electronic spin resonance, and flow injection methods in addition to traditional enzymatic and immunoassays (Iammarino et al., 2017; Martins et al., 2018).

1.2.5 Freshness and pathogen identification

The safety of meat and meat products is an important aspect of modern food trade. Since meat foods are rich in nutrients, they support the growth of many bacterial populations leading to decay or spoilage. The meat spoilage pattern is an important phenomenon directly linked with the freshness indicator, although many other arrays are also responsible for meat spoilage. In the modern era the spoilage of muscle foods can be detected by sensor-based techniques. The sensor-based techniques are usually low-cost on-site in-time detection tools that can comprehensively be applied for the detection of meat freshness. Recently the Institute of Instrumental Analysis at Karlsruhe, Germany, has developed micronose microarray (gas sensor microarray) for the effective evaluation of meat freshness (Musatov et al., 2010), while for the discrimination of frozen–thawed meat, NMR spectroscopy methods have been developed (Ballin and Lametsch, 2008). Another innovation is a noninvasive portable method that works with the principle of Raman and fluorescence spectroscopy detection. This new device is capable of monitoring soluble protein content, the concentration of biogenic amines, and even microbial load in meat (Jordan et al., 2009). The Raman sensor works at an excitation wavelength of 671 nm for the detection of microbial spoilage on the meat’s surface even through the packaging foil (Schmidt et al., 2010). The synchronous front-face fluorescence spectroscopy is capable of determining microbial load alongside chemometric methods (Damez and Clerjon, 2012).

The accurate identification of foodborne pathogens has been a long-pending issue but continuous efforts have been sustained to develop assay methods as alternatives to conventional detection methods. In recent years with the highly publicized antimicrobial resistance (AMR) of several foodborne pathogens, rapid assay methods like chemical, biochemical, biophysical, molecular biological, serological, immunological, nucleic acid, or even biosensor-based techniques were tried for the early detection and characterization of isolates of potential health risks (Bhunia et al., 2007; Bhunia, 2008; Biswas et al., 2008; Mandal et al., 2011). However, all these rapid methods are recommended and performed for the initial screening of samples rather than for confirmation.

A new generation of mobile sensing approaches offers significant advantages over traditional platforms in terms of test speed, control, low cost, ease of operation, and data management, and requires minimal equipment and user involvement. Further, the universal presence of mobile phones makes it suitable for on-site testing (Mandal et al., 2018). Recent developments in the field of smartphone-based food diagnostic technologies were reviewed by Ren et al. (2017). These devices typically comprise multiple components, such as detectors, sample processors, disposable chips, batteries, and software, which are integrated with a commercial smartphone. One of the most important aspects of developing these systems is the integration of these components onto a compact and lightweight platform that requires minimal power. To date researchers have demonstrated several promising approaches employing various sensing techniques and device configurations.

1.2.6 Chemical contaminants

The safety of meat food products due to the inadvertent presence of chemical residues of pesticides, veterinary drugs, heavy metals, mycotoxins and their metabolites, metals, plastics, wooden parts, shards of glass, etc., is the key issue of the new pattern of the food trade. These chemical contaminants in meat can be potential sources of several mysterious diseases unheard of in the past. The catalogue of such diseases and disorders includes cancer, epilepsy, liver and kidney dysfunction, somatic cell growth, depression, and neuritis. For this the regulatory authorities around the globe are harmonizing their responses to these contaminants through appropriate statutory measures and setting up standards using risk–benefit relationships (Biswas et al., 2010). This balancing takes into account the economic, social, and environmental cost as well as potential benefits of the use of any chemicals in relation to its efficacy, inherent toxicity to mammals, wild-life, and plants. The immunoassay techniques (ELISA) are one of the recently developed rapid screening methods for the analysis of residues of some chemical contaminants in foods based on the interactions between antibodies and antigens. Antibodies are highly specific and vary structurally depending on compounds, but can show considerable cross-reactivity for structural analogues, as they recognize only specific chemical groups—the epitope. The only disadvantage of the immunochemical approach is the extensive effort and time required to elicit the antibodies in the vertebrate host.

Lateral flow assay, also known as solid-state immunochromatography (ICA), has been in great demand. Several ICA methods were developed (Suri et al., 2009; Guo et al., 2009; Wang et al., 2005) and all of them had successful applications in residue analysis. For the detection of AFT B1 in foods an ICA was proposed by Xiulan et al. (2006). The assay used gold-labeled polyclonal antibodies as a detector reagent for AFT B1, and AFT B1-BSA as a capture reagent. The enzymatic sensors are the most extended biosensors used for the determination of chemical compounds. However, this biosensing technique, although sensitive enough, is not selective, and therefore it cannot be used for the quantification of either an individual or a class of chemical contaminants. For the detection of mycotoxins a great number of specific sensors have been developed for food and environmental control. Molecular imprinting is another technique that has potential applications in mycotoxin analysis (Shephard et al., 2005). Similarly a microarray technique that is essentially a reverse dot-blotting technique is a new technique for the identification of DNA fragments, such as PCR products, and the differentiation of high numbers of microorganisms and toxins, especially mycotoxins (Nicolaisen et al., 2005). Luminex’s xMAP technology is another new invention comprised of existing technologies—flow cytometry, microspheres, lasers, digital signal processing, and traditional chemistry—and now being applied for the determination of mycotoxins in foods. The ranges of applications are considerable throughout the drug-discovery and diagnostics fields, as well as in basic research (Vignali, 2000). However, there are very limited applications of these techniques for the identification of chemical compounds in meat systems.

AMR of foodborne pathogens is widely discussed in today’s world. So the harmonization of these compounds is important regarding their presence in the food chain system. Currently six main types of analytical methods are followed—microbial growth inhibition assays, microbial receptor assays, enzymatic colorimetric assays, receptor binding assays, immunoassays, and chromatographic methods. Immunoassays like ELISA enable the simultaneous processing of a large number of samples in a short time, but are difficult to implement for multiresidue screening because of a wide range of sensitivities for the different compounds rather than a generic response for a family of compounds. Biosensors are also used as screening methods (Pellegrini et al., 2004), as are liquid chromatography (LC) techniques equipped with UV, fluorimetric, or electrochemical detectors. But the LC technique coupled to MS is gaining more acceptance for screening purposes as it enables the analysis of a large number of analytes in a single run (Weber et al., 2005; Suarez et al., 2009; Adrian et al., 2009). However, the key point for all screening methods is that the sample treatment should be as simple as possible without compromising the operation of the mass spectrometer. Karsourd et al. (1998) evaluated a number of common bacterial inhibition tests for the screening of antimicrobial residues in tissues.

1.2.7 Sensory quality

With customized meat processing, the meat industry around the world is showing a great deal of interest in the quality evaluation of meat based on dynamic sensory properties as well as the physical and structural properties of different species’ meats and their products. Tenderness is probably the most important meat quality that greatly varies according to the type of processing, processing environment, age factors, myofibrillar orientation, connective tissue development, and marbling. Warner-Bratzler shear force or compressive techniques still remain as the benchmark reference methods for the determination of meat toughness, but these are destructive methods and required a long time to get results (Lorenzen et al., 2010). Uses of a number of handful portable apparatuses such as the Armor tenderometer, G2 tenderometer, and tendertec mechanical penetrometer have also been reported (Damez and Clerjon, 2012). However, using modern techniques some instruments can determine tenderness by evaluating bioimpedance, ultrasound, X-ray scanning, and NMR/MRI. Bioimpedance is used for characterizing biological tissue properties (aging-related tenderness), while electrical impedance mainly focuses on measuring the state of muscle fiber and shifts in its anisotropy (Damez and Clerjon, 2008). Since meat and meat products are viscoelastic, acoustic waves generated from ultrasound or even a nondestructive magnetic resonance elastography, optical coherence tomography, or transient elastography could help in determining the localized viscoelastic properties of meat tissues (elasticity).

Image processing techniques like macroscopic imaging consistently characterize complex color, texture, and geometrical properties. X-ray imaging helps in understanding lipid structures, while microscopic imaging techniques are applied for the characterization of the histochemical properties of a muscle. The details of the sensory characteristics of meat are also given in Section 1.2.2. Some image processing techniques also utilize sensors that work like human senses to recognize and discriminate volatile and liquid compounds with high sensitivity and accuracy. These are called arrays-based techniques. The electronic nose (arrays of gas sensors) and electric tongue (arrays of liquid) are examples of such arrays widely used for discriminating smell and taste, respectively. Fluorescence imaging determines the fluorescence in the form of luminescence, by absorbing light or other electromagnetic radiation that can emit fluorescence. This may help in indirect measurement of slime development that is mainly due to bacterial spoilage. A laser-induced fluorescence imaging system for the discrimination of feces-contaminated poultry carcasses is well documented (Chao et al., 2010). Hyperspectral imaging integrates the merits of computer vision and conventional spectroscopy and is capable of determining wholesomeness, contamination, and moisture, in addition to simultaneously obtaining abundant spatial and spectral information (Kandpal et al., 2013). Thermal imaging is another rapid, noninvasive, and accurate technique for the evaluation of sensory quality. This can catch moving targets in real time and create a visual picture, showing temperature differences over a large range (Ibarra et al., 2000). There is extensive literature on the sensory quality evaluation of meat and meat products utilizing modern techniques that are integrated with many other meat quality parameters, so only a few of them can be mentioned here.

1.3 Challenges

The development and application of technologies for meat quality evaluation has grown in parallel with the consumer concern for safety. But researchers are often facing greater challenges due to the complexity of trade-related issues that are arising around the globe (Garcia-Canas et al., 2012). The first and principal goal in meat quality evaluation has traditionally been, and also still now is, to ensure safety. The modern quality evaluation of meat encompasses many recent techniques. These were made possible due to constant efforts; even then, there are a large number of issues that need to be improved substantially. It has been found that many modern image processing techniques are used only for specific applications. Although these techniques are robust, sensitive, and selective enough, they are cumbersome and not cost-effective. Thus the problems arising with the widening of their application through the integration of multiple imaging techniques need to be solved. For instance, many nondestructive methods, like conventional fluorescence imaging, X-ray imaging, and NIRS, have been developed but the integration of these with other nondestructive methods, in particular microscopic imaging, hyperspectral imaging Raman spectroscopy, and electronic nose, could achieve better performance in meat quality evaluation while carcasses are still on the processing line. Furthermore, nearly all the image processing techniques are based on huge spectral data, so the development and exploitation of innovative data-processing algorithms is highly relevant and need to be taken care of in order to reduce the time required for image data processing.

Another area of concern is the identification of pathogens. In the last few decades, reliable culture-based techniques have been developed for several microbiological communities. These are known as golden tests for declaring microbiological standards, but they are time-consuming, cumbersome, and require several days to a week to obtain the final result. Thus the introduction of molecular (DNA) or array-based techniques allows for the development of automated and more sensitive, selective, and accurate methods for initial screening of microbial pathogens in real time (Garcia-Canas et al., 2012; Biswas et al., 2008). Fortunately many analytical methods have been developed and some are under use for the initial screening of meat samples, but these are also facing great challenges to achieve detection limits with respect to the standard or official guidelines outlined for pathogens.

Currently miniaturization techniques are gaining wider popularity and acceptability for the effective control and monitoring of food and environmental contaminants, since they have greater flexibility, automation, and multiplexing capabilities than traditional assay methods. It has been shown that varieties of array-based techniques have potential in detecting pathogens, food allergens and adulterants, toxins, antibiotics, and environmental contaminants (Raz and Haasnoot, 2011), but their potential application in meat food systems is yet to be explored. Another important consideration for the application of modern techniques for the evaluation of meat is for the eventual or unlawful presentation of varieties of chemical toxicants, including their residues, due to their increasing production as well as productivity adopting new agricultural practices. So it is logical to develop more robust, sensitive, and fast analytical tools that may fit present-day needs, while keeping in mind the rapid industrialization and its resultant impact on effluents, disposal of nanomaterials, pharmaceutical residues, antibiotics, and other veterinary drugs. Some research communities are also encouraging the development of green analytical techniques in order to reduce the burden of the disposal problems of solvents, reagents, chemical preservatives, and many other hazardous materials that have potential health risks and negative impacts on the environment. Armenta et al. (2008) reported that the use of green analytical techniques, in particularly sample pretreatment or processing, could greatly contribute to reaching the goals of this new green era.

Proteomic approaches will help to identify useful low abundance proteins, which can be studied further to understand their beneficial properties. Global genetics–based analyses provide information regarding which genes an organism contains or which genes are expressed under specific conditions; however, examining the posttranslational protein output of an organism allows one to query the ultimate outcome of the organism’s genetic and regulatory activities. Techniques that fall within the category of either proteomics or protein arrays are used for global analysis of cellular protein output under different conditions and are potentially relevant to food and food processing environments. The integration of both genetic- and protein-based approaches provides a global analysis of treatment or environment-related changes at the molecular level, thus presenting a more comprehensive view of cellular activities. The development of high-throughput analytical techniques will make it possible to use multiomics approaches to understand complete biological systems, a field known as systems (integrated) biology.

Although omics technologies are becoming standard research tools that offer tremendous opportunities, there are also significant challenges. There is a need to properly manage the large quantity of complex raw data generated by these technologies in a manner in which it can be adequately analyzed, scrutinized, and compared for the benefit of the scientific community. There are various omics standardization activities underway, which are critical for the integration and interpretation of data from different data sources. Lastly, there is a need to bridge the gap between the knowledge of the genome, proteome, and metabolome, and results obtained in relevant systems by studying the behavior of pathogens in foods and in the animal host, not only in model systems under laboratory conditions. The knowledge garnered from omics-based research in the coming years will play an important role in understanding how pathogens survive food safety barriers and interact with host species. Each new advance in our understanding will potentially give rise to improved and novel strategies for the detection, identification, and control of foodborne pathogens, as well as for the diagnosis and control of infections.


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