Meat Science and Muscle Biology Symposium
Fatty acids in fresh meat contribute to palatability in many ways. However, fatty acids primarily influence flavor and juiciness. Perceived juiciness is impacted through lubrication by fatty acids and stimulation of saliva during mastication. Therefore, the content of fatty acids primarily impacts juiciness. However, for flavor, fatty acid content and composition are each important. Volatile flavor compounds have been demonstrated to have greater expression as overall fatty acid content increases. This may be through the retention of fat-soluble volatile compounds leading up to consumption. In addition to content, fatty acid composition may also be altered. Factors, such as, species, muscle, and diet dictate fatty acid composition. In general, these factors mediate proportions of major fatty acids and thus alter levels of fatty acid saturation. As fatty acid saturation is decreased, there is greater propensity towards oxidation. Greater fatty acid oxidation generally leads to negative off-flavors. During storage and handling there is opportunity for less saturated fresh meats to undergo oxidation, ultimately impacting flavor. To summarize, both fatty acid content and composition play roles in fresh meat palatability. Understanding the role of fatty acids in palatability helps equip processors and meat scientist to maintain or improve meat palatability.