Aging

Within the first 10 days after slaughter, beef undergoes enzymatic changes which cause muscles to become more tender due to protein breakdown. The time between slaughter and the sale of beef to the consumer in a retail store may be as short as four days. Thus, not all beef ages long enough for optimum development of tenderness through the proteoivtic action of natural enzymes. Additional tenderness and flavor development can be induced through controlled natural aging methods.  In natural aging, beef is held for two to four weeks at temperatures of 34° F to 38° F. Humidity is kept at about 70 percent to keep the exposed meat surfaces dry. Humidity at this level causes moisture evaporation, resulting in weight loss- a factor which increases the price-per-pound of aged beef. If a higher humidity level is used, evaporative losses are kept to a minimum, but there is greater weight loss from the trimming that must be done to remove surface spoilage.  There is little or no moisture loss or spoilage when meat is aged in vacuum bags.

Pork and lamb are slaughtered at a young age, which results in inherently tender meat. Therefore, pork and lamb are usually not aged but are processed the day following slaughter. Also, pork fat is more unsaturated than beef or lamb fat and thus is more subject to development of rancid flavors unless promptly processed and packaged.  Aging requires strict control of temperature to control microbial growth, humidity and dehydration and are not recommended for consumers to use at home.

Source: Lessons on Meat

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