Biochemical Basis of Fresh Ham Color Development
Stufft, Kristen Marie
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Commercial hams display variation in color uniformity across the cut surface, especially the semimembranosus (SM) muscle. This variation in fresh ham color, or two-toning, persists through further processing and contributes to production of a less desirable end product. In an attempt to understand the underlying source of this color variation, we evaluated the differences in muscle fiber-type composition and glycolytic metabolism in the SM muscle of fresh hams differing in color uniformity. Fifty-eight fresh SM muscles, ranging in color, were selected at 24 h postmortem and each partitioned into four distinct regions and three color classes based on color uniformity in the caudal region. The L* (lightness) values were greatest and a* (redness) values lowest in the most caudal portions of the muscle. The caudal portion also exhibited the lowest ultimate pH (P < 0.0001), lowest myoglobin (P < 0.05), greatest glycolytic potential (GP) (P < 0.0001) and the lowest myosin heavy chain type I isoform (P < 0.0001) abundance of all regions in 'normal' colored hams. After segregating based on L* values, the caudal region had identical pH, GP, LDH, and MyHC-I, despite significant differences in L* (P < 0.0001). These data show the most caudal aspects of the SM are indeed more prone to adverse postmortem metabolism and suggest that inherent differences in muscles of the ham may make some areas of the ham more vulnerable to temperature abuse during harvesting.
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