QMEAT: First test carried out at laboratory level with fresh hams

The determination of Water holding capacity in fresh hams is of utmost importance for the meat industry.


In dry-cured products like a ham or a shoulder an insufficient WHC produces important reductions in weight losses, between 2-10% more than meat with an optimum WHC. Typically, in defective products, the absorption of salt is irregular (some parts are salty) and the product has excessive desiccation on the surface, obtaining a product of inferior quality. Moreover, excessive WHC or DFD meats will spoil more rapidly than normal meat and the product must be rejected at the end of the curing process.


In the production of high quality cooked ham, carried out without the injection of artificial ingredients, a defective raw material will result in a product with a number of quality problems including: Muscle that breaks or crumbles easily, holes, and discoloration which is detrimental to the presentation of the product. Additional industrial problems may appear during the slicing of the product where significant quantities of slices must be rejected. Financial losses of up to 25% for the production of this natural cooked hams has been reported.


The use of phosphates in cooked ham is typical and produces a significant increase in water holding capacity and improves inter-muscular binding which is very important for the slicing of the product. However, there is a continuous demand for products processed with natural ingredients.


Research companies involved in QMEAT have carried out initial test with 18 fresh hams. Hams were cooked and weight losses were measured. The QMEAT technology was capable to predict weight losses with a prediction accuracy of R2=0.79, RMSE=0.48.


Next step is to develop an industrial version of the system that will be initially tested at laboratory scale with more samples and finally at industrial level.