Comparison of three methods of packaging for the ageing/maturation of beef

Project number:                    72505

Lead contractor:                   EBLEX technical team

Partners:                                  University of Bristol

Start & end date:                   01 January 2009 – 01 July 2009

Actual end date:                    25 May 2010


The Problem:

It is widely accepted that the maturation or ageing of beef improves its eating quality. Flavour also increases during ageing and there is an argument that “dry ageing results in better flavour than “wet ageing. Prior to the development of vacuum packaging, meat was dry-aged. Dry aging consists of placing unpackaged meat in a chiller  under controlled temperature, humidity and airflow. Wet ageing is widely used in commercial beef production in England. This involves storage of the meat in vacuum packs, usually for 7 to 21 days.

The main disadvantage of dry ageing is the weight loss as a result of two main factors: evaporative loss resulting in reduced water content of the meat (considered an important component of the improved quality) and discolouration/desiccation of externally exposed muscle, which requires trimming. To counter this, dry ageing in a bag that is highly permeable to water vapour has been investigated.


Project Aims:

1. To compare the weight loss and eating quality of beef sirloin subjected to traditional dry ageing, vacuum packaged ageing in a standard vacuum pouch and ageing in a permeable bag.



Ageing was carried out in a commercial plant using sections of loin matured by the three methods: not packaged for maturation; vacuum packaged in standard vacuum pouch; and vacuum packaged in permeable film. The weight losses (evaporative and trim losses) were assessed at the end of ageing. Loin sections were subjected to sensory analysis at the University of Bristol.



The ageing of meat in permeable packaging resulted in a marked improvement in yield, although standard vacuum packaging reduces this further.  The flavour developed was similar to that from traditional dry aging, which was not liked by the University of Bristol sensory panel.  In fact the “abnormal flavour” of the permeable bag product was higher than traditional dry aging which was higher than vacuum pack.  It could be concluded  that ageing in a permeable bag mimics the flavour development of dry aged beef while reducing weight loss.  It would be prudent to undertake evaluation with target consumers before implementing any changes in practice.