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Need for Fast, Real-time, Non-destructive WHC Methods

For years, researchers have been seeking the do-it-all WHC method, but to date, that method has remained elusive. The methods described in Section V are extensively used to characterize meat WHC for given situations. However, very few of these methods would be considered rapid, hands-free, and with potential for providing industry with the capability to make real time classification, screening, sorting, and functionality decisions for meat raw materials.

Progress on new methodologies owes much to improved instrumentation coupled to computers with faster and better analytical capabilities than humans. Methods using near infrared spectroscopy (NIRS) have been successfully used for more than 30 years, providing rapid determination of moisture, fat, and protein of many food products. About 10 years ago, similar instruments were developed for meat and meat products for chemical analyses, and these instruments are widely used today. Reports of adaptations of NIRS technology for meat WHC have considerable promise although the methodology still needs refinement to increase accuracy and precision.

Nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) has potential for rapid, non-invasive quantitative analysis of the distribution and mobility of water in meat as well as to detect certain metabolic intermediates (metabonomics), which correlate to factors important for WHC. NMR analysis of water distribution and mobility correlates reasonably well (r values ≈ 0.7) to established methods for determining WHC. Metabonomic analysis, although promising, needs further investigation to demonstrate its usefulness in the meat industry.

Apart from applying metabonomics, identifying biomarkers reflecting certain meat quality traits is also being pursued by using other "omics" methods like genomics, transcriptomics, and proteomics where detailed treatment and analysis of the data are needed.