Tenderness, tastiness and fat content are the crucial properties which give the European pork and beef (destined for heat treatment) its culinary value. Consumers all over the world expect that pork and beef destined for cooking will be characterised with proper tenderness, juiciness and taste, and that those properties will be similar in every batch of the product, in other words that the quality of meat will repeatable. The above mentioned properties of culinary usability stem from natural differences between muscles connected with their physiological function and structure, as well as from activities connected with farming, transport and meat processing.
Tenderness and tastiness are some of the most important organoleptic properties of meat. Tenderness is the easiness with which meat can be bitten or chewed. Tastiness, on the other hand, is a sensory property of meat, which involves sense of taste and smell and other sensory impressions (texture, temperature, acidity).
It is assumed that around 30% of culinary usability of meat is determined by genetic factors and around 70% by other factors. Genetic factors which influence technological quality of meat include, among other things, breed of slaughter animals and genotype which includes genes responsible for defects in meat. That is why, in the farming sector of EU countries great stress is put on use of specialised meat breeds which guarantee proper muscular structure of animals, their proper weight gain and the other desirable quality properties characteristic for culinary beef and pork.
Environmental factors are among other non-genetic factors which have significant influence on tenderness of meat. Thanks to great accessibility to fields and pastures all over the European Union, natural farming of cattle is possible, this allows to produce high quality meat. In case of pig farming, EU regulations require proper farming space, temperature, ventilation and air humidity.
Moreover, feeding of slaughter animals is of great importance when it comes to culinary quality of pork and beef. Proper content of energy and protein as well as of other ingredients, which influence sensory quality of meat, and proper amount of feed well-adjusted to the needs of the stage of slaughter animals’ development are all aimed at optimal development of animals. It needs to be highlighted that in the countries of the European Community composition of animal feed is strictly monitored. EU regulations concerning animal feed and welfare control composition of compound feeds and test them for presence of heavy metals. Moreover, in the countries of the European Union adding antibiotics, hormones and growth stimulants to animal feed is prohibited. Control over factors connected with animal feeding allows to influence intramuscular and intermuscular fat content in slaughter animals, which in turn enables to influence its culinary quality.
Post-slaughter factors also significantly influence quality of meat. Stages which are of special importance when it comes to culinary value of meat are: proper cooling (pace at which temperature drops and extent to which meat is cooled are important) and maturation of meat. During maturation stage tenderness of meat increases and desirable tastiness develops. Experience that the EU countries have in proper adjustment of this process to type of meat and carcase cuts guarantees consumers’ full satisfaction.
Culinary quality of pork and beef is also related to the location and content of intramuscular fat. Intramuscular fat is responsible for meat’s tastiness. Its content, however, should be on an optimal level, which is different in different muscle structures of the same carcase and which depends on animal breed. It is worth mentioning that, different muscles of an animal are useful for different culinary purposes. Muscles which are more active during animal’s life tend to have more aroma than those less active muscles. In the countries of the Community, European systems of classification – (S)EUROP- are used in order to assess lean meat content in pork and beef carcasses. They allow to precisely define the intended use for the meat.
It has been known for a long time that desirable smell and taste of meat is obtained through heating. Tastiness of cooked and roasted meat comes from changes in the structure of protein and non-protein nitrogenous compounds and from thermal changes of fat. It should be stressed, however, that it is not only the method of thermal processing, but most importantly, the use of European pork and beef that make meat dishes so unique.
Over the years, countries of the Community have developed unique systems and procedures which guarantee repeatable quality of meat products. Proper selection of pork and beef carcases, which is mandatory in the EU countries, guarantees their great culinary usability. European meat is produced in a way which guarantees its natural softness, tenderness and high juiciness, and it is what makes it stand out on a worldwide market.