This SET activity will expose participants to meat science and the scientific effects of mechanical and physical protein degradation while teaching food safety, observation, and critical thinking skills
Note: Clean hands and equipment with soap and water after handling raw meat to avoid cross-contamination. Keep all proper food safety methods in mind when handling and cooking raw meat.
Animal muscles are made up of fibers known as myofibrils. These fibers are why you see “grains” within the muscle, or it appears to have a direction. Amount and type of fibers along with connective tissue found in a specific muscle help determine if that muscle would be tough to eat. Disruption of the fibers can affect meat tenderness.
Enzymatic breakdown is when enzymes (proteins) help speed up biological reactions that can result in chemical changes of a product. This can occur with the addition of an acidic ingredient that is more acidic then the meat itself. Meat has an average pH of 5.4 - 5.7. When meat is covered with these ingredients, with time they will enzymatically work to breakdown the muscle fiber and collagen structures resulting in a more tender cut of meat.
Physical breakdown is the action of physically creating change in a product. This can occurs when a tool such as a fork is used to physically break the muscle fibers apart. Shortening their length and in turn tenderizing the meat.
Close up of beef showing directional "grains."
Close up of chicken showing directional "grains."