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ARS Home » Southeast Area » Athens, Georgia » U.S. National Poultry Research Center » Quality and Safety Assessment Research Unit » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #330355

Research Project: Assessment and Improvement of Poultry Meat, Egg, and Feed Quality

Location: Quality and Safety Assessment Research Unit

Title: Developments in our understanding of water-holding capacity

item Bowker, Brian

Submitted to: Book Chapter
Publication Type: Book / Chapter
Publication Acceptance Date: 5/31/2017
Publication Date: 7/27/2017
Citation: Bowker, B.C. 2017. Developments in our understanding of water-holding capacity. Book Chapter. 77-113.

Interpretive Summary: The ability of fresh poultry meat to retain inherent or added moisture is a highly variable and complex meat quality attribute. Numerous interacting antemortem and postmortem factors can influence WHC characteristics in the final meat product. Biochemical and structural changes within the muscle tissue during the conversion of muscle to meat greatly impact WHC. The distribution of water between the various compartments within the muscle (intra-myofibrillar, extra-myofibrillar, extra-cellular) throughout slaughter, processing, and storage plays a key role in WHC. Although much is known about how various factors influence WHC, a comprehensive understanding of the underlying mechanisms controlling WHC in fresh poultry meat is still lacking.

Technical Abstract: The ability of poultry meat to retain inherent or added moisture throughout processing and storage is an important quality attribute for both consumers and processors. This chapter focuses on the structural and biochemical characteristics of poultry muscle that influence water-holding capacity (WHC). During the postmortem transformation of muscle to meat, net charge and steric effects within the myofibril structures as well as the degree of muscle protein denaturation and degradation strongly influence the distribution of water within the muscle tissue and WHC in the final product. Antemortem factors such as feed withdrawal, pre-slaughter activity, transportation, and environmental conditions are discussed as they relate to WHC. The impact of postmortem factors such as stunning, electrical stimulation, carcass chilling, deboning, and storage are discussed. This chapter also reviews the various methods that are often used to quantify the complex and highly variable WHC characteristics in fresh poultry meat.