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Antemortem meat tenderizing


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Animals are sometimes injected before slaughter with substances (most often papain or other protease, or substances intended to aid the action of these proteases) to start the "tenderizing" or proteolysis of muscle protein. It seems that sometimes cattle are just fed nutrients which will aid postmortem tenderizing treatments, but I'm concerned with the actual antemortem injection of tenderizers.

Similar effects are achieved by using suffocation with carbon dioxide as a slaughter method, I believe.

It's taken me a while to work out what is involved - as far as I can tell, the usefulness of this type of injection has been known for decades, but it was hard to control. I am not sure exactly how widespread the practice is now, and if it is "mainstream", how long it has been so.

The problems appear to be about what you might expect from the breakdown of tissues while the animals are still alive - cardiac stress, hemorrhage, edema, coma, and sometimes outright death. I found descriptions of animals which collapsed and remained unconscious for 2-20 hours between injection and slaughter.

It was very hard to find specific information about actual commercial antemortem tenderizing injection processes, so I cannot tell how it works in actual meat production. However, meat can obviously be made more tender not only through postmortem processing (though I believe that is problematic) but also through better feeding during the animal's life, minimum stress prior to slaughter, and longer aging before freezing or sale.

In other words, the process appears to be there mostly to reduce production time (costs) and achieve higher prices, rather than to produce better quality meat for the end consumer.

As a consumer, I've noticed that cheap pork and chicken is flabby when raw, mealy when cooked, and doesn't keep well - though I am sure that this is also due to postmortem tenderizing treatment.

Cheap "boiler" chickens culled from egg farms seem to have vanished from the market - they need slow, moist heat when cooked, but they repay the effort with extra flavor. On the other hand, cheap tenderized meat can be grilled or fried quickly and remain soft - but that really is its only benefit to either cook or diner. And if the picture I've built up of antemortem tenderizing is even halfway correct, I'd rather just chew my food better.

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Animals are sometimes injected before slaughter with substances  (most often papain or  other protease, or substances intended to aid the action of these proteases) to start the "tenderizing" or proteolysis of muscle protein.

That sentence may be one of the most alarming sentences that I've read in a long time! :blink:

Do you know how widespread this practice is?

The more I read about modern farm practices, the more I lean towards vegatarianism. I'm finding it harder and harder to justify eating meat when I know this kind of crap goes on...

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Animals are sometimes injected before slaughter with substances  (most often papain or  other protease, or substances intended to aid the action of these proteases) to start the "tenderizing" or proteolysis of muscle protein.

That sentence may be one of the most alarming sentences that I've read in a long time! :blink:

Do you know how widespread this practice is?

The more I read about modern farm practices, the more I lean towards vegatarianism. I'm finding it harder and harder to justify eating meat when I know this kind of crap goes on...

These allegations are pretty strong, especially without presentation of any supporting evidence. However, assuming that they are valid and true that in some parts of the world, practices like these are done, that is all the more reason to know the source of your food regardless of whether it is meat or vegetable. Where I live, I have not seen any evidence of this kind of practice, but should it actually occur as alleged, that would indeed be deplorable.

Helen, what evidence do you have to support your assertion?

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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I have about 60 pages of materials and references...

The reason I didn't give references were 1) material is quite scattered, and 2) I was a bit reluctant to indicate use by certain regions or companies, when I wasn't sure whether such practices had been discontinued or not, and how many other undocumented cases exist.

There is a mountain of reports on experimentation in this kind of antemortem procedure, dating from the late '50s through post-2000. Look for publications such as the Journal of Animal Science, Meat Science, World's Poultry Science Journal, Journal of Food Science, Handbook of Food Additives. Also numerous patent abstracts.

What is much harder to trace is the commercial application - where, when, and to what extent?

However, I made the post only when I was confident that this was a real procedure, in commercial use, and that there were real questions about the effects on the animals while still alive. Award given to scientist who made the ProTen Beef product possible - his name appears on numerous research reports from 1960 through to the 1970s, and the ProTen process may be the biggest commercial application ever made of the antemortem enzyme injection process. The company's own media release states “And in 1970, [company name's] ProTen

tendered beef was reported to be the largest dollar sales, branded food item in the world. “

General information websites give the following type of information, which also suggests that the process is still in commercial use, however widespread it may or may not be:

"5. Papain (in active form) Meat (tenderisation) Injected into the jugular vein shortly before slaughter; after slaughter, papain is activated and tenderises the meat; only 2-5 ppm (of body weight) enzyme injected."

Commercial use is also referred to in industry reference books such as Lawrie's Meat Science, or Quality and Grading of Carcasses of Meat Animals.

I believe that the practice may be waning, but really can't get a good grasp of that - hence my query about the extent of ante-mortem tenderizing (pre-slaughter tenderising if you want to find UK sources). Here's one reference:

Enzymes in Food Processing, etc

Tucker, G. A., Woods, L. F. J.

Pub. Springer

P 173-4

“Based on government figures, about 2% of the UK beef production is treated with papain, with higher figures in the US (Maclean, 1999).”

It looks as if the process itself has changed, so that the active enzyme which originally caused shock and death (Enzymes in Food Processing, Tucker et al, fig. 5-8) are now used in smaller doses of less active enzymes, promptly neutralized - but slaughter is still supposed to happen within minutes, for reasons which are not clearly described - probably because organ meat deteriorates past the point of usability? In which case, the animal can hardly be in good condition by that stage?

One report states that chymopapain was used, which has certainly caused serious problems when used intravenously with humans. Ref.

Further this patent suggests that inactivation of enzymes and neutralization are not as straightforward as could be hoped:

" While this technique is of substantial value in obtaining meat which, when cooked, is uniformly tender, there are undesirable animal side reactions which occur if some commercially available enzymes are utilized. Specifically, injection of the enzyme into a live animal often causes internal hemorrhaging and edema of the internal organs. "

One question I have is whether the push to provide halal meats is likely to limit ante-mortem injection of enzymes, as I understand that even plant enzymes are not accepted by all authorities as halal when used in animals.

Second, some of the problems seem to be associated with antemortem tenderizers other than papain - and many have been tried, from saline, calcium chloride, propanolol and reserpine (in big doses, rather than in small doses to offset shipping stress, as it is most commonly used (I believe)). And it's hard to tell which of these processes ever entered commercial use. One report suggested the use of fish-derived antifreeze, if it could be injected 24 hours before slaughter. Ref. Ref.

Debated by UK parliament regarding animal welfare, Rejected by EC Scientific Community on Food on hygiene grounds

http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/c...Writtens-9.html

UK parliamentary debate, stated that meat processed this way must be labeled "tenderised", and that "Government's decision not to seek provision for the continued use of the pre-slaughter injection of cattle with the enzyme papain when [European] Community proposals are discussed". I am not sure what the actual, current status of antemorte tenderizing in the UK is.

“Some animals display an anaphylactic reaction to the process, resulting in very marked rigors and death in some cases, necessitating total condemnation of the carcase and organs.”

“There are animal welfare and ethical concerns. The UK Farm Animal Welfare Council in its report of the Welfare of Livestock (Red Meat Animals) at the Time of Slaughter described the process as “an unnecessary interference to an animal for a non-veterinary purpose which can create additional stress and suffering for the animal at the time of slaughter”, a conclusion with which we agree.”

(Meat Hygiene, 10th Ed., Gracey, Collins, and Huey)

Sorry if these seem out of context, since I assume nobody wants to scroll through a 60-page post!

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Thank you, Helen. I believe that you can understand why some back-up of your assertions were warranted. For a variety of reasons, the biggest being its apparent impracticality, I can't believe that this kind of process is in widespread commercial use. If it is in use at all, it strikes me as an abomination. It would not surprise me though that it might have been studied and explored, as despicable as that might be.

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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apparent impracticality

I spent several weeks checking it out, for that reason - I came across it while looking into postmortem tenderizing treatments, and at first found it hard to believe that it had gone past the experimental stage.

However problematic the process may be, there are clear benefits for meat producers. I read somewhere that ProTen increased the amount of "tender" meat from around 35% to 75% of the carcass.

However, there are other considerations: 1) freezing without affecting tenderness, and 2) faster processing time (that is, chilling carcasses more rapidly, and therefore being able to cut them and package them and ship them out earlier), resulting in quicker turn-around.

This site claims that

physical injection of a controlled solution of either papain or some other enzyme into the living animal. This practice has been discontinued and is no longer used.
.

..but if that is so, why do the 2003 and 2005 editions of the US Department of Agriculture Food Standards and Labeling Policy Book state under "Papain" that meat tenderized with papain "by ante-mortem injection" must be roller-branded or labeled on packaging "tendered with papain" or "tenderized with papain"?

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Thank goodness I live in the Hudson Valley, where it is easy to find humanely treated animals offered for sale. Whether it's Fleishers or Highland Farms or Flying Pigs Farm, I feel a little less guilty when I sit down to eat. Oh, and as a bonus, the food tastes better.

This sort of practice is deplorable, but not surprising. There are too many people who see animals only as a source of revenue.

"It's better to burn out than to fade away"-Neil Young

"I think I hear a dingo eating your baby"-Bart Simpson

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I'm not justifying it but with the world becoming one market place, where production costs and animal welfare vary greatly I for one am not surprised.

My simple take is pay a premium it is highly unlikely that premium produced meat is going through this process. I would hope they are asking for premium because they don't feel a need to resort to these type of practise's.

If people continue chasing the bottom price these type of practise's will continue.

Once you've tasted a piece of Highland Angus hung for 4 weeks, there is no looking back but a premium you do pay. Hanging reduces weight, increases storage price, but if people aren't aware or appreciate it, they will still look for the bottom price.

Its a consumer driven market, in the UK I've noticed one of our stores only claiming to use freerange eggs. Why, because who they market to, don't mind the premium and recently one of the celebrity chefs highlighted the plight of the battery hen.

Edited by PassionateChefsDie (log)
Perfection cant be reached, but it can be strived for!
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