Section I: Introduction and Significance of WHC
Objective of Section I: To become familiar with the terminology and significance of water holding capacity of meat.
Knowledge of the water holding capacity (WHC) of skeletal muscle and meat products is essential because WHC is one of the most important physical traits of meat that affects yields, quality, safety, and profitability. Unfortunately, WHC is one of the most complex traits of meat because it is affected by numerous factors from "conception to consumption" in the pork industry. Because of these multi-variant characteristics WHC is best managed by having some knowledge of the science of WHC and a comprehensive, systematic approach within company operations.
The sustainability of meat companies in any country historically is dependent on how much volume of meat they sell. Volume is primarily related to the yields of product at every segment of the production chain. In fact, the two most important 6-letter words in the meat industry are "yields" and "weight". If owners and managers of companies have good control over yields at every phase of production, including those related to WHC, then volume and weight of product sold will usually sustain the company. In addition, companies that implement management control of factors affecting their yields should gain a significant competitive advantage in product quality and consistency, and a reduction of product complaints.
The critical issue is being able to create and manage an operating system that integrates as many factors as economically possible that affect WHC. Since these factors involve the communication and cooperation between several segments of the production chain, it may require special effort to establish inter-operational control programs. These factors are not the same for all companies; therefore knowledge of the factors that they can control becomes essential.
Significant loses of moisture can occur at nearly every step of a meat companies' operation. Often companies have several operating units, such as slaughter, chilling, fabrication, further processing, etc. What is good for one unit's yields and quality control is not always complimentary to the preceding or following unit. Thus, there can be management issues as to who "pays the price" and "gets the credit" for extra time and labor needed to maximize the total operational volume. Only management can effectively implement a comprehensive plan to manage WHC issues related to yields and product volume.