MEaTnet Research

Dr. Heather Bruce

Project: Assessment of beef toughness using polarized near-infra-red spectroscopy. Funded by the Alberta Livestock and Meat Agency

Methods commonly used to measure meat toughness are time-consuming and destructive; consequently, meat toughness is rarely assessed in industry because sacrifice of valuable product is seen as unsustainable. Invention of a non-invasive method of assessing meat toughness will allow for classification of carcasses or cuts into quality categories and will facilitate product differentiation. This project examines the use of polarized near-infra-red light to predict cooked beef toughness from the raw product.

Project: Genetics of the eating quality of high connective tissue beef. Funded by the Alberta Innovates – BioSolutions, Alberta Livestock and Meat Agency, the Beef Cattle Research Council, and the Alberta Beef Producers

What consumers pay for beef is largely governed by how much toughness is imparted to the beef by connective tissue. Connective tissue is mainly the protein collagen, and its stability during heating is directly related to beef toughness. There is significant variation in the amount of collagen released during cooking, particularly between animals and this study seeks to determine if this variation is genetic and if collagen heat stability can be used to select for tender beef.

Project: Relationship between beef quality grade and collagen biochemistry. Funded by Alberta Livestock and Meat Agency

The Canadian beef grading system differentiates its product based upon the amount of intramuscular fat within the rib eye muscle because increased intramuscular fat is associated with increased cooked beef tenderness. This research project will examine if the connective tissue of highly marbled beef has fewer heat stable collagen cross-links than connective tissue from lean beef. This research will support Canadian beef branding based upon the composition of the beef.

Dr. Lynn McMullen

Project: Alternative strategies for horse meat harvest to ensure product quality and safety for export markets. Funded by the Alberta Livestock and Meat Agency

An assessment of current and alternative strategies for harvest of horse meat will be performed and will include evaluation of microbiological and eating quality of horse meat destined for export from Canada. Current practice for harvest requires either hot-deboning or full carcass cooling under specific guidelines set by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. No alternative processes are permitted as there is no data to support the use of alternative chilling regimes. This research will provide data on alternative chilling strategies and the impact they will have on the microbiological and eating qualities of horse meat. The information gathered during this research will be used to ensure market access for Alberta horse meat and will provide the basis for policy changes for the cooling of horse meat.

Dr. Michael Gänzle  

Project: The genetic determinants of heat resistance in Escherichia coli and related enteric pathogens. Funded by Alberta Livestock and Meat Agency and Alberta Innovates BioSolutions.

Shiga-toxin producing Escherichia coli (STEC) causes problems for the meat industry that can result in large recalls and human illness. Some strains of E. coli, including STEC, are heat resistant and can survive traditional cooking practices. The determination of the genetic elements that confer heat resistance to E coli allowed the identification of identical genes in Cronobacter, Klebsiella, and Salmonella species, suggesting that these organisms use comparable mechanisms to resist thermal pathogen technologies that are employed in food processing. This project aims to elucidate the role of these genetic elements in heat resistance of Salmonella spp., and additionally aims to determine whether heat resistance in Salmonella spp. is linked to dry survival and resistance to dry heat. The project will contribute to our understanding of mechanisms that support dry survival of Salmonella spp., including survival on condiments, spices, and other ingredients to meat products.

Dr. Sven Anders

Project: The Economics of Quality and Safety along Meat Value Chains.

Consumers are increasingly asking for more detailed information about product and processing  attributes when making meat purchases. Where does the steak come from? How was the animal raised? What is the environmental footprint of the product in front of me? How should I (the consumer) evaluate the quality of a steak? In order to provide answers to such questions asked at the point of purchase, a number of stakeholders along meat value chains (ranging from cow-calf producers, feedlots, meat packers and retailers) have to coordinate and collaborate on growing numbers of mandated regulations and voluntary systems meant to assure that all quality, safety, animal welfare, and environmental aspects of producing fresh meat and meat products are met. This project seeks to explain and quantify the impacts of different economic mechanisms behind quality assurance and other systems that increasingly shape meat value chains in domestic Canadian and international meat markets. This project and related research seeks to contribute to improve our understanding of how such systems and regulations shape the structures of modern meat value chains and investigate their benefit-cost implications for different meat value chain stakeholders.

Dr. Mirko Betti

Project: The versatile amino-sugar: glucosamine as a possible new curing and preservative agent in meat products

Meat colour influences retail purchasing decisions more than any other quality factors. We recently discovered that glucosamine (GlcN) incubated with iron-(III)-metmyoglobin, the major pigment responsible for browning of the meat, dramatically increased the proportion of iron-(II)-oxymyoglobin (bright cherry red colour), a chemical form that is associated with freshness. We also discovered that GlcN developed antimicrobial capacity when incubated under certain conditions. Hence, the objective of this project is to evaluate the potential of GlcN as a new non-meat ingredient to improve the colour and safety of meat products.

Specific objectives are: i) to clarify the mechanism by which glucosamine and its derivatives increase iron-(II)-deoxy and iron-(II)-oxymyoglobin in model systems and decrease lipid oxidation; ii) to clarify the mechanism by which GlcN and its derivatives inhibit pathogenic bacteria; iii) to investigate the effect of GlcN on the main quality attributes (safety, colour and eating quality) of beef and pork patties.

Dr. Ellen Goddard

Project: Societal Interest in Meat Quality Attributes

Increasing pressure from society is being brought to bear on meat industries and supply chains.  In the cacophony of articles on the 'problems' with the meat industry, the fact that meat can contribute to healthy diets is sometimes overlooked - in fact in developing countries meat is an important source of protein, iron and other micronutrients for malnourished people.Research is being undertaken on how society views different potential meat industry outcomes - including disease reduction  (with attendant animal welfare implications), feed efficiency ( with potential methane reduction implications)  and micronutrient enhancement (with potential human health improvements possible).  The meat industry can act on this research through targeting future innovations in supply chain relationships in line with public interests.  In addition though the public is increasingly interested in the technologies used in livestock production and the research will also investigate the technologies with the highest level of acceptance in society - technologies such as changing the feed, the use of vaccination, the use of genomics in selective breeding. This information will also allow the meat industry to educate and inform the public on the uses of various technologies and why they are the 'best' for both  animals and people in our society. through this research the competitiveness of the meat industry can be enhanced both domestically and internationally.

DR. LINDA SAUCIER

Project: Optimization of feed withdrawal to improve quality and preservation of fresh and processed rabbit meat products.

N.B.: This project was recently approved and is currently recruiting for a Master Student and a Post Doctoral position.

Research Program:

Dr. Saucier’s meat microbiology research laboratory is located at the Faculty of Agricultural, Food and Consumer Sciences in Université Laval. She is also a member of the Institute of Nutrition and Functional Foods (INAF; www.inaf.ulaval.ca ). Her research program is focusing on microbial ecology and the microbial quality of meat and meat products. She is invested in the bacterial stress response associated with the efficacy of antimicrobial systems, and works to develop novel strategies to control microorganisms, notably by the use of natural compounds for feed and food preservation. Her research includes also preslaughter management at the farm and at the abattoir. The facilities at her disposal include also a 12 540 sq feet pilot plant and a smaller version (1 000 sq feet) under bio-confinement level 2, animal production facilities on site and at the Centre de recherche en sciences animals de Deschambault.

DR. TINEKE JONES

Project: Fate of Salmonella, hepatitis E virus and other enteric viruses on pork carcasses during commercial pork processing. Funded by Agriculture and AgriFood Canada

Salmonella is a major foodborne pathogen and a leading cause of gastroenteritis. Particularly, recent emergence of multidrug resistance strains poses a continuous threat to human health around the globe. Since pigs can be colonized with Salmonella, the risk of contamination during commercial processing becomes a key public health issue. Swine hepatitis E virus (HEV), rotavirus (RV) and norovirus (NV) are widespread in herds and some swine strains are genetically related to human strains. The zoonotic transmission of HEV is now well established. While enteric viruses do not multiply on meat, they are extremely stable at low temperatures and are generally more resistant to environmental stresses than bacteria. As a result, current strategies to reduce bacterial pathogens in food may not be fully effective against viruses. The major goals of this project are to determine the sources of contamination and the fate of Salmonella, HEV and other potential zoonotic or indicator viruses at each stage of commercial slaughter and pork processing, to determine genetic determinants of Salmonella resistance to a wide variety of antibiotics, and determine the genetic relatedness of animal strains of HEV, RV and PEC to humans strains. This research will provide new scientific information and a better understanding of the epidemiology and transmission dynamics of Salmonella and enteric viruses in foods of pork origin so that cost-effective interventions can be applied.