Extension Ag Update
May/June 2001
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Making a Better Meat Product

Management at the farm level influences the eating quality of meat. Flavor, juiciness, tenderness, texture, and cooking odor are all influenced by such factors as genetics, nutrition, age, and handling techniques. Here are some examples of how Illinois farmers and processors can improve the quality and consistency of the meat you offer your customers.


  • Genetics: The more muscular breeds of livestock are generally tougher and develop less marbling, which results in a tougher, drier steak or chop.
  • Aging: The aging of beef results in a more tender product. However, the economics of the current commodity beef marketing chain does not allow time for the aging process.
  • The age of the animal influences tenderness, with the older the animal the tougher the meat.


  • Meat flavor is primarily the result of marbling or intra-muscular fat. Certain breeds of livestock will develop greater amounts of marbling.
  • Certain grains and forages will influence the flavor of meat. Corn and soybean meal, major Illinois crops, appear to be important in producing a flavor preferred by most mid-west consumers.

Cooking odor

  • Cooking odor is generally found in older lamb and intact males. Cooking odor can be eliminated through proper management and harvesting lambs at a younger age.

Food Safety:

Keeping meat pathogen-free is a function of

  • Cleanliness at all levels of the chain, including the farm, processor, distributor, and retailer.
  • Freshness of product. By making more direct links between the farmer and the retailer, the meat distribution system can guarantee a fresher product.