St. Paul, Minn. – A patented rinse and chill technology reduces harmful bacteria in ground beef, according to tests sponsored by AURI and the Minnesota Beef Council. The process, commercialized by Meat Processing Services Corporation, cleans and cools beef carcasses by flushing the circulatory system with a cold solution of water, sugar and salt. Two years ago, AURI tests using Angus beef found that rinse and chill reduces coliform contamination, lowers cholesterol, and improves meat tenderness, color and shelf life. Those findings have now been confirmed by a second, larger set of trials, performed last fall at AURI’s Marshall meat lab and the University of Minnesota.
The real hamburger helper

Rinse and chill gives packers an important tool for improving meat safety and quality, says Darrell Bartholomew, director of AURI’s animal products program, which has worked with MPSC since 1994. “There are a lot of benefits from this technology.”

The recent trials were conducted on 40 Wulf Limousin cattle, which produce very lean meat. The cattle were slaughtered at G & C Packing in Colorado Springs, Colo., which is already using the rinse and chill process. Microbial testing of the meat samples showed that rinse and chill consistently inhibited the growth of coliform bacteria in vacuum- and tray-packed ground beef, Bartholomew says. Salmonella and harmful E. coli 0157:H7 were also reduced. The protective effect of the technology extended to a 50-50 blend of rinse and chill ground beef and control samples. Livers from rinsed and chilled carcasses were also lower in harmful microbes.

“We expect the same effect in the whole carcass: less spoilage bacteria, coliform and E. coli,” Bartholomew says. In addition, rinse and chill lowered cholesterol in muscle tissue and livers, the tests found.

Good looks and taste

Rinse and chill beef was also evaluated for taste, tenderness and shelf life by panels of experts organized by AURI meat technologist Brian Reuter. One panel looked at shelf-life factors, including color and purchase appeal. The panel compared rinse and chill loin and chuck steaks with a control group. Rinse and chill chuck steaks rated higher than the control steaks on all desirable criteria, Reuter says, gaining two days of visual shelf life.

Trained taste-testers evaluated the cooked meats for tenderness and flavor. They said chuck steaks from the rinse and chill group were more tender than the control group. Their subjective evaluation was backed by an industry test for tenderness, measuring the mechanical force needed to cut through meat, which showed rinse and chill strip steaks to be more tender than control steaks. The taste panel also compared samples of cooked liver. The rinse and chill liver was judged to be milder in flavor.

These test results underscore the quality benefits of rinse and chill. “It’s an opportunity to improve meat tenderness, which tends to be quite variable and is a problem for the meat industry,” Bartholomew says. Even more important, he notes, are the safety benefits. Bacterial contamination, especially in ground beef, is a major industry concern.

Because the bad E. coli “is more prevalent than previously thought, plants are reevaluating their food safety plans. Rinse and chill offers one more tool to control pathogens, and it brings other benefits as well.”