16 July 2015
When we speak of measuring the colour of meat, it must be remembered that there is a vast number of different types of meat as well as the state the meat could be in. From a number of different animals to cooking and storage methods and a number of different coatings, the purpose of analysing meat is extremely individual. The actual methods for measuring meat products can be applied to more than one type of meat however, so this article shall try to generalise the specifics to give a broad idea of the possibilities that colour measurement presents.
Why does the appearance of meat need analysing?
Essentially, as with all food stuffs, if something does not look as the public perceive it should then it will be discarded. The final product should be of the utmost quality consistently from product to product; if one imagines the meat on a supermarket shelf, it will be extremely obvious if there is an issue with colour consistency as the products will be next to each other. Another purpose of colour measurement within the meat industry would be to determine the presence of any impurity or note an error within the production process. All meat of a particular type produced under the same circumstances should have a conforming appearance; this appearance is subject to some variability depending on the individual animal and its lifestyle choices, but on average they share the same colour and appearance characteristics.
What different types of samples can be measured?
There are a range of sample types that may need measuring during the processing of meat of any variation. Depending on the production and the customer, meat may be in the following forms:
Fresh | Cooked | Coated | Minced | Sausages | Dried | Offal | Mixed Meat Products | Burgers | Fish | Poultry
All of these different types and forms of meat products can be, if required, analysed to quantify their reflected colour and allow for their quality to be written numerically for comparison or research and development purposes.
It must also be noted that the coatings or flavourings may also require appearance measurements but we will touch on that shortly.
How can meat be measured?
There are two different types of instruments that can help the quality control process by quantifying the aforementioned reflected colour and examples are detailed below. Each instrument can benefit any quality control process in a different way yet both provide accurate reflected colour data that can be used for a number of different purposes.
The first instrument to discuss would be the MiniScan EZ Spectrophotometer. This is a handheld, portable instrument that can be operated in a variety of different locations. This instrument would be useful if an operator needed to complete testing on the production line, in a laboratory, indoors or outside. This instrument would require the option to change from a large area view to small area view with as little fuss as possible. The large area view, being able to take measurements across a 25mm view, can give accurate data of meat with a more conforming surface. The small area view, however, gives accurate measurements over a 5mm space, meaning that if the meat being measured had any markings or structure that did not require measurement, the instrument could accommodate this. Each of these ports could be changed easily and each is fitted with glass to prevent any of the sample contaminating the instrument.
Another instrument that makes appearance analysis of meat a simple task is the ColorFlex EZ Spectrophotometer. This spectrophotometer is of compact, benchtop design that is capable of measuring the meat samples themselves but also any extra ingredients or coatings that may be used.
To use this instrument, samples of any form of meat can be placed in a clear glass or plastic sample cup for measurements to keep cleanliness and hygiene good and avoid any cross-contamination between meat samples. This instrument, like the MiniScan EZ can come with different sized ports that can take measurements of sample surface areas ranging from 13mm to 32mm, meaning it can accommodate a wide range of samples. Powdered or liquid ingredients can be measured in the same way; a sample cup can be filled partway with the sample and, if the sample is more translucent, backed with a white tile to get the most accurate results possible.
Both instruments can be used as stand-alone or in conjunction with software. Alone, the ColorFlex EZ can accommodate up to 250 set-ups and the MiniScan EZ up to 100 set-ups; this could more than provide for the amount of meat sample types. When used with software, the amount of set-ups is unlimited and trends in sample types can be monitored over time. Different set-ups and standards can be set to allow for any changes in animal feed or management to see what effect it has on the meat itself. For example, a standard detailing the data of an ideal meat sample could be set and compared to samples from animals fed on different foods or kept in different conditions to find the best meat possible. This would give processors an idea of the quality of meat they are getting before beginning handling it.
Both instruments can provide reflected colour data that quantifies the quality of the meat sample measured and can help monitor effects that production processes may have on the samples to ensure the final product that hits supermarket shelves is of consistently good quality and appealing to customers. Whether the meat is being analysed at the start of production, before packaging or even at the end when it is on supermarket shelves, either of the instruments mentioned above can help keep quality control processes running smoothly and giving as effective results as possible.
Content Written by Rachael Stothard