Evaluation of the Tendertec beef grading instrument to predict the tenderness of steaks from beef carcasses.
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Four experiments were conducted, using carcasses from cattle identified for anticipated variability in tenderness (Exp. 1, 2, and 3) and carcasses selected for variability in physiological maturity and marbling score (Exp. 4), to evaluate the ability of the Tendertec Mark III Beef Grading Probe (Tendertec) to predict tenderness of steaks from beef carcasses. In Exp. 1, 2, and 3, longissimus steaks were aged for different periods of time, cooked to a medium degree of doneness (70 degrees C), and evaluated for Warner-Bratzler shear force (WBS) and trained sensory panel ratings. In Exp. 4, longissimus steaks were aged 14 d and cooked to 60, 65, 70, 75, or 80 degrees C for WBS tests and to 65 or 75 degrees C for sensory panel evaluations. Tendertec output variables were not correlated with 1) 24-h calpastatin activity, steak WBS (following 1, 4, 7, 14, 21, or 35 d of aging), or d-14 sensory panel tenderness ratings in Exp. 1 (n = 467 carcasses) or 2) 14-d WBS in Exp. 2 (n = 202 carcasses). However, in Exp. 3 (n = 29 carcasses), Tendertec output variables were correlated (P < 0.05) with tenderness of steaks aged 1, 21, 28, or 35 d, and we were able to separate carcasses into groups yielding tough, acceptable, and tender steaks. In Exp. 4 (n = 70), Tendertec output variables were correlated (P < 0.05) with steak WBS at 60 degrees C and with steak ratings for muscle fiber tenderness, connective tissue amount, and overall tenderness at 65 degrees C, but these relationships weakened (P > 0.05) as degree of doneness increased. Consequently, Tendertec output variables only were effective for stratifying carcasses according to tenderness when steaks from those carcasses in Exp. 4 were cooked to a rare or medium-rare degree of doneness. Although Tendertec was able to sort carcasses of older, mature cattle based on tenderness of steaks at some cooked end points, it failed to detect tenderness differences in steaks derived from youthful carcasses consistently, and was thus of limited value as an instrument for use in improving the quality, consistency, and uniformity of the U.S. fed-beef supply.