The quality of grilled steaks was assessed by experienced panellists in longissimus thoracis (LT), semitendinosus (St) and triceps brachii (TB) muscles of Aubrac, Charolais, Limousin and Salers breeds raised in two production systems: 15-, 19- and 24-month-old bulls and 4-, 6- and 8-year-old cull cows.
Scores for sensory ‘initial tenderness’, ‘overall tenderness’, ‘juiciness’, ‘residue after mastication’ and ‘flavour intensity’ for all 497 meats were pooled to derive three eating quality classes.
Meats from the bulls and cows and from the four breeds were evenly distributed among the three eating quality classes. The highest quality class, representing one third of all the meats, contained 45% of the LT, 35% of the TB and 21% of the St muscles and one third of the meats from the 8-year-old cull cows. The meats in this class tended to have finer fibres, a greater proportion of slow oxidative fibres, slower post-mortem glycolysis, lower connective tissue and higher fat contents than those in the lower classes.
Lipid content accounted for proportionately 0·56 of the variation in flavour intensity and pH at 3 h post mortem, 0·52 of the variation in tenderness due to muscle and slaughter age.
Considering both young bulls and cull cows together, tenderness was highest in the meats from 15-month-old bulls and low in the meats from the intermediate age groups, and flavour and juiciness was highest in the meats from the oldest animals from each production system.