March 06, 2014

2013 Early Career Achievement Award: Meat scientist studies proteomics of meat color

The meat saleroom at the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana sells meat while using other parts of the animals for research.

By Taking Stock Contributor

Dr. Surendranath Suman, an associate professor at the University of Kentucky, received the American Society of Animal Science Early Career Achievement Award at JAM 2013 (Vonnahme, 2014).

“It was the biggest recognition that I have received as an animal scientist in my early career,” Suman said.

For his work, published in the March 2014 issue of the Journal of Animal Science, Suman applied proteomics to understand what happens biochemically when meats discolor (Suman et al., 2014). Suman said he evaluated how certain beef muscles undergo rapid discoloration, compared with other muscles, and studied the differences of discoloration between beef and pork.

“These are all phenomena that we see in a retail store and processing plant,” Suman said. He pointed out that meat color is the most important quality trait influencing consumer purchasing decisions.

Suman said the effect of packaging is muscle specific—the color-labile steaks like tenderloin or filet mignon (from Psoas major muscle) have better color stability in the absence of oxygen, whereas color-stable steaks like strip steaks (from Longissimus lumborum muscle) are not as susceptible to oxidation and, therefore, have better color stability in the presence of oxygen.

“Each cut from a beef carcass has a different biochemistry,” Suman said.

His studies showed that Longissimus lumborum had more antioxidant proteins and chaperones, and thus reduced myoglobin oxidation, that positively correlated with surface redness and color stability. The Psoas major steaks, by contrast, had more mitochondrial aconitase that negatively correlated with surface redness and color stability.

Suman said myoglobin in beef is highly susceptible to lipid oxidation, and discoloration in beef could be prevented by adding vitamin E to the diet. However, this is not the same for pigs, which have a fundamental difference in their myoglobin chemistry that makes pork less susceptible to lipid oxidation-induced myoglobin oxidation.

The Early Career Achievement Award was introduced in 2007 to recognize young scholars whose work exemplifies the mission of ASAS: “The American Society of Animal Science fosters the discovery, sharing, and application of scientific knowledge concerning the responsible use of animals to enhance human life and well-being.”

Scientific Contact:
Surendranath Suman
University of Kentucky

Media Contact:
Laci Jones
ASAS Media Communications