A survey of beef muscle color and pH

J. K. Page, D. M. Wulf, T. R. Schwotzer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

211 Scopus citations


The objectives of this study were to define a beef carcass population in terms of muscle color, ultimate pH, and electrical impedance; to determine the relationships among color, pH, and impedance and with other carcasses characteristics; and to determine the effect of packing plant, breed type, and sex class on these variables. One thousand beef carcasses were selected at three packing plants to match the breed type, sex class, marbling score, dark-cutting discount, overall maturity, carcass weight, and yield grade distributions reported for the U.S. beef carcass population by the 1995 National Beef Quality Audit. Data collected on these carcasses included USDA quality and yield grade data and measurements of muscle color (L*, a*, b*) muscle pH, and electrical impedance of the longissimu's muscle. About one-half (53.1%) of the carcasses fell within a muscle pH range of 5.40 to 5.49, and 81.3% of the carcasses fell within a longissimus muscle pH range of 5.40 to 5.59. A longissimus muscle pH of 5.87 was the approximate cut-off between normal and dark-cutting carcasses. Frequency distributions indicated that L* values were normally distributed, whereas a* and b* values were abnormally distributed (skewed because of a longer tail for lower values, a tail corresponding with dark-cutting carcasses). Electrical impedance was highly variable among carcasses but was not highly related to any other variable measured. Color measurements (L*, a*, b*) were correlated (P < 0.05) with lean maturity score (-.58, -.31, and -.43, respectively) and with muscle pH (-.40, -.58, and -.56, respectively). In addition, fat thickness was correlated with muscle pH and color (P < 0.05). There was a threshold at approximately .76 cm fat thickness, below which carcasses had higher muscle pH values and lower colorimeter readings. Steer carcasses (L* = 39.62, a* = 25.20, and b* = 11.03) had slightly higher colorimeter readings (P < 0.05) than heifer carcasses (L* = 39.20, a* = 24.78, and b* = 10.80) even though muscle pH was not different between steer and heifer carcasses. Dairy-type carcasses (pH = 5.59, L* = 37.56, a* = 23.40, and b* = 9.68) had higher muscle pH values and lower colorimeter readings than either native-type (pH = 5.50, L* = 39.55, a* = 25.13, and b* = 11.00) or Brahman-type (pH = 5.46, L* = 39.75, a* = 25.17, and b* = 11.05) carcasses (P < 0.05).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)678-687
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of animal science
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2001
Externally publishedYes


  • Beef
  • Color
  • Impedance
  • Meat Characteristics
  • Muscles
  • pH

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Food Science
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Genetics


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