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Agricultural Research Service

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Hydrodyne prototype

Big Shock Makes Tender Beef

By Jill Lee
June 29, 1998

Tender, affordable meats with less fat could come from hydrodyne--technology that uses shock waves to improve the texture of everything from lamb chops to steaks. Hydrodyne was developed in part by scientists with USDA’s Agricultural Research Service.

With hydrodyne, underwater shock waves from a high-energy explosive charge tenderize meat with pressures as high as 25,000 pounds per square inch. The ARS scientists will explore alternatives to explosives for discharge systems.

Hydrodyne technology can provide a 50 to 70 percent improvement in tenderness of less tender meat. Taste-tests by ARS scientists showed it made inexpensive cuts of meat taste like higher- priced ones. Hydrodyne also provides an alternative to fat as a source of tenderness. Before hydrodyne, 40 percent improvement in tenderness was the goal.

Hydrodyne was invented by John Long, a mechanical engineer who retired from the Department of Energy. But Long needed someone who could evaluate the technology with the meat industry’s requirements in mind. He found Morse Solomon at ARS’ Meat Science Research Laboratory in Beltsville, Md., and together they are fine-tuning hydrodyne to make it industry-ready. The next step for hydrodyne will be training workers in its use.

A prototype at Tenderwave, Inc., in Buena Vista, Va., can tenderize 600 pounds of meat at once. A 7,000-pound steel tank filled with water is covered with a 8-foot-diameter, 5,000-pound steel dome. Large primal cuts of meat, encased in water- and pressure-resistant wrapping, are lowered into the tank. Then an explosive charge is set off in the water about 2 feet from the meat. The tank's dome holds in water that is forced upwards.

An article about hydrodyne appears in the June issue of ARS’ Agricultural Research magazine. The article also is on the World Wide Web at:


Scientific contact: Morse Solomon, ARS Meat Science Research Laboratory, Beltsville, Md., phone (301) 504-8463, fax (301) 504-8438,

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