Current and future prospects for the use of pulsed electric field in the meat industry

Bhat, ZF
Morton, James
Mason, SL
Bekhit, AEA
Journal Article
Fields of Research
ANZSRC::0908 Food Sciences , ANZSRC::3006 Food sciences , ANZSRC::3210 Nutrition and dietetics
Pulsed electric field (PEF) is a novel non-thermal technology that has recently attracted the attention of meat scientists and technologists due to its ability to modify membrane structure and enhance mass transfer. Several studies have confirmed the potential of pulsed electric field for improving meat tenderness in both pre-rigor and post-rigor muscles during aging. However, there is a high degree of variability between studies and the underlying mechanisms are not clearly understood. While some studies have suggested physical disruption as the main cause of PEF induced tenderness, enzymatic nature of the tenderization seems to be the most plausible mechanism. Several studies have suggested the potential of PEF to mediate the tenderization process due to its membrane altering properties causing early release of calcium ions and early activation of the calpain proteases. However, experimental research is yet to confirm this postulation. Recent studies have also reported increased post-mortem proteolysis in PEF treated muscles during aging. PEF has also been reported to accelerate curing, enhance drying and reduce the numbers of both pathogens and spoilage organisms in meat, although that demands intense processing conditions. While tenderization, meat safety and accelerated curing appears to be the areas where PEF could provide attractive options in meat processing, further research is required before the application of PEF becomes a commercial reality in the meat industry. It needs to deal with carcasses which vary biochemically and in composition (muscle, fat, and bones). This review critically evaluates the published reports on the topic with the aim of reaching a clear understanding of the possible applications of PEF in the meat sector in addition to providing some insight on critical issues that need to be addressed for the technology to be a practical option for the meat industry.
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