STORIES in Agriculture and Life Sciences


Ed Adcock


Someday you may be able to tell if a piece of meat is going to be tender just by a quick litmus test, thanks to Elisabeth Huff-Lonergan and the meat science team at Iowa State. Tenderness depends on many factors, including the animal's genetics, how it was raised and processed and the cooking method. She and colleagues are looking at enzymes present in the live animals that are responsible for regulating protein turnover, muscle growth and efficiency of muscle growth. Those same enzymes are responsible for tenderization and the breakdown of muscle fiber after the animal is harvested. What happens to the animal during harvesting can influence cell-signaling pathways that affect some of these enzymes. "The ultimate goal is to discover some interventions we can make, maybe at the time of harvest, that can influence some of these pathways and give us the quality we want," she says. For example, a graduate student she works with is trying to identify chemicals in the purge, or juice that seeps from raw meat, for tenderness indicators.