Beef fat

Fat is a critical component of meat because it has a great influence on the maintenance of muscular tissue reducing protein breakdown and it is the energy storage reservoir.

The fatty acids in meat are located mainly in adipose tissue, commonly termed “fat.” Fat tissue is made up of fat cells embedded in a matrix of connective tissue. Triglycerides within fat cells make up about 85% of the fat tissue. Each triglyceride is made up of three fatty acids; the three can be any of many combinations of saturated, mono-unsaturated and polyunsaturated acids.

Intramuscular fat is responsible for the organoleptic properties and a necessary component of meat products. It has a role in product quality, contributing toward texture (tenderness and mouthfeel) and juiciness in both fresh meat and meat products.

Because fatty acids have very different melting points, variation in fatty acid composition has an important effect on firmness or softness of the fat in meat, especially the subcutaneous and intermuscular (carcass fats) but also the intramuscular (marbling) fat.

Fatty acids in adipose tissue and in muscle membranes also contribute to meat flavor, providing volatile degradation products during cooking.

The fatty acids in meat are mainly of medium to long chain length, that is, they have 12- to 22-carbon atoms in the molecule, with a basic structure of CH3–(CH2)n–COOH. The fat in the muscle and adipose tissue of beef contains combinations of saturated (SFA), mono-unsaturated (MUFA) and polyunsaturated (PUFA) fatty acids.

In one study, beef fat was found to possess more saturated fatty acids (55.15 to 68.05%)than unsaturated fatty acids (44.85 to 31.95%). The difference in the degree of unsaturation of this animal fats could be due to the diverse pattern of distribution of individual fatty acids (J. Oleo Sci. 62, (7) 459-464 (2013)).

The respective proportions of the three classes (SFA, MUFA and PUFA) influence the physical and nutritional properties of the fat. The most notable physical effect is on fat hardness: fat is harder when the proportions of unsaturated fatty acids—MUFA and PUFA— relative to SFA are lower.

Marbling fat that contains higher levels of saturated fat with an elevated solidification point will be more evident at chiller temperature than fat with a lower solidification point.
Beef fat

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