Factors affecting red meat quality and shelf life

Find out what factors affect meat quality and shelf life and what you can do about them to improve end product consistently.

Why is meat quality important?

Meat quality can be influenced by many different factors on the farm as well as pre- and post-slaughter. Understanding these can help you to improve the eating quality and consistency of the end product. 

On-farm factors affecting meat quality

There are several areas of production which can affect meat quality from an early stage. Though these may not be as impacting as influences at slaughter, it is still important to recognise them to produce the best product: 

  • Breed and sex 
  • Diet and finishing 
  • Selection and handling 
  • Age and growth rate 
  • Fat level 

Find out more about the on-farm factors that affect meat quality

How pre-slaughter handling affects meat quality

In the days leading up to slaughter, it is important to keep animal stressors to a minimum. With cattlesheep and pigs, this can be up to 48 hours prior to transportation to the abattoir. Once animals arrive at the abattoir, there are a number of things that need to be considered to help maintain a high level of animal welfare and therefore meat quality and shelf life: 

  • Handling and transport 
  • Clean livestock 
  • The impact of stress on meat quality  
  • Stunning and slaughter 

Find out more about how pre-slaughter handling can affect meat quality

How pre-slaughter stress impacts meat quality

High levels of stress in the last couple of days prior to slaughter can impact beef, lamb and pork meat quality.  

Areas to think about include mixing, transportation, lairage and handling.

Find out more about how pre-slaughter stress can impact meat quality

Post-slaughter factors affecting meat quality

Following the conversion of muscle to meat, there are several technologies that can be utilised to achieve consistent and improved meat quality. These processes also help to achieve consistency which will keep the consumer returning:  

  • Electrical stimulation 
  • Suspension methods 
  • Considerate chilling 
  • Maturation/ageing

Find out more about how post-slaughter factors can affect meat quality

Useful links

Beef cattle: Understanding how each abattoir works

Learn more about killing-out percentage

More on selecting beef cattle for slaughter