A near-infrared spectral reflectance system was developed and tested online to predict 14-day aged, cooked beef tenderness. A contact probe with a built-in tungsten-halogen light source supplied broadband light to the ribeye surface. Fiberoptics in the probe transmitted reflected light to a spectrometer with a spectral range of 400-2500 nm.
In the first phase, steak samples (n=292) were brought from packing plants to the lab and scanned with the spectrometer. After scanning, samples were vacuum-packaged and aged for 14 days. They were then cooked in an impingement oven to an internal temperature of 70°C. Slice-shear force values were recorded for tenderness reference.
In phase two, the spectrometer was modified for packing plant conditions. Spectral scans were obtained on-line on ribbed carcasses (n=276). A partial least square regression model was developed to predict tenderness scores from spectral reflectance. In phase three, the developed model was validated by scanning carcasses (n=200) on-line. The predicted shear-force values and samples were sent to the U.S. Meat Animal Research Center for third-party validation. At up to 70% certification levels, the system was able to successfully sort tough from tender carcasses.