Date of this Version
J. Anim. Sci. 2014.92:2735–2740
The objective of this study was to determine the effect of freezing and thawing or freezing and thawing with an additional aging period after frozen storage on the tenderness of longissimus lumborum (LL) and semitendinosus (ST) steaks relative to aged, fresh steaks. Left-side LL and ST (n = 35 each) were obtained from U.S. Select carcasses classified at the grading stand by the U.S. Meat Animal Research Center visible and near-infrared spectroscopy tenderness system to have predicted slice shear force greater than 16.5 kg at 14 d postmortem. At 2 d postmortem, 2.54 cm thick steaks were cut from each muscle and assigned to 1 of the following treatments: 2 d fresh (2FRESH), 2 d freeze + thaw (2FREEZE), 2 d freeze + thaw + 12 d age (2FREEZE+12AGE), 14 d fresh (14FRESH), 14 d freeze + thaw (14FREEZE), 14 d freeze + thaw + 14 d age (14FREEZE+14AGE), and 28 d fresh (28FRESH). Steaks assigned to a freezing treatment were frozen at –26°C for 30 d before thawing/cooking or thawing with an additional aging period at 2°C. Slice shear force for LL and ST was lower (P < 0.01) for 2FREEZE (27.4 and 24.5 kg) and 14FREEZE (22.4 and 22.4 kg) compared to 2FRESH (33.0 and 29.2 kg) and 14FRESH (25.3 and 25.5 kg), respectively. Slice shear force for LL and ST was lower (P < 0.01) for 2FREEZE+12AGE (17.8 and 20.8 kg) and 14FREEZE+14AGE (14.6 and 19.0 kg) compared to 14FRESH (25.3 and 25.5 kg) and 28FRESH (18.7 and 21.7 kg), respectively. Desmin degradation for LL was not different (P > 0.05) between 2FREEZE (21.0%) and 2FRESH (14.6%) or between 14FREEZE (40.4%) and 14FRESH (38.4%); however, desmin degradation was higher (P < 0.06) in 2FREEZE+12AGE (46.7%) and 14FREEZE+14AGE (71.1%) when compared to 14FRESH (38.4%) and 28FRESH (60.5%), respectively. Cooking loss for LL was higher (P < 0.01) in 2FREEZE+12AGE (15.2%) compared to 14FRESH (14.0%) but was not different (P > 0.05) between 14FREEZE+14AGE (15.0%) and 28FRESH (14.3%). Freezing and thawing or a combination of freezing, thawing, and aging resulted in increased tenderness for LL and ST steaks when compared to fresh steaks with the same aging time. These results indicate freezing could be incorporated into normal commercial product distribution processes to improve the consistency of meat tenderness. Researchers who freeze steaks before tenderness assessment should be aware and acknowledge that freezing affects tenderness data.