US - When choosing a package of ground beef from the retail case, consumers rely heavily on the colour of the meat to make their decision.
The most desirable colour is bright, cherry red. Once the meat changes to a brownish colour, consumers tend to leave it, resulting in discounted meat and a total loss to retail stores of over $1 billion dollars annually.
Jade Cooper and colleagues at the University of Missouri recently looked at the effect of retail display lighting on ground beef colour. Their research was published in the October 2016 issue of the Journal of Animal Science.
Typically, retailers use fluorescent lighting in their cases. However, the present study and previous research show that fluorescent lighting can increase the temperature in the cases, increasing the rate of discolouration. LED lights have a higher light intensity, but produce less heat, are more efficient, and last longer.
The corresponding author, Dr Carol Lorenzen, says LED lights are less common because of initial cost of case conversion. According to the Department of Energy, only 5 per cent of all lights in the US are LEDs but by 2035 it is expected to be 85 per cent, which will lead to a 75 per cent decrease in energy consumption.
To conduct the trial, ground beef patties at both 5 and 25 per cent fat were placed in deli cases with either low UV fluorescent lighting, LED lighting, or no light. Patties were removed on days 1, 3, 5, and 7 to determine objective colour, myoglobin concentrations, and lipid oxidation.
The longer the ground beef was in the display case, the more discolouration occurred, regardless of lighting.
In summary, Lorenzen states, "LED light bulbs are a viable alternative to fluorescent lights for ground beef display." Currently, the group of researchers is working on a similar study using whole muscle cuts to see if the results can be replicated on other cuts of beef.
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