Food Engineering

Bigger Buck For The Bang

March 28, 2003
Explosive tenderizing process adds value to lower-grade meat cuts.

An explosive process for tenderizing vacuum-packaged primal and sub-primal meat cuts was introduced for commercial application by Hydrodyne Inc. at Worldwide Food Expo ?99 Oct. 28 in Chicago.

As shown in the table on the next page, the noninvasive process tenderizes lower-grade meat cuts, adding value for processors and retailers as well as for consumers who want low-fat but tender meat products.

According to Hydrodyne, the process tenderizes meat with no change in appearance or taste. Vacuum-packaged meat cuts are loaded into a 4-ft.-diameter stainless-steel tank mounted in concrete and filled with water. The tank is sealed with a stainless-steel dome and a small, shaped explosive charge is detonated inside the tank, creating a supersonic pressure wave that uniformly tenderizes the meat ?in a fraction of a second.? Total cycle time is three minutes. Unlike other tenderizing methods such as needling, the Hydrodyne process is noninvasive: The meat never contacts any object or surface, and is distributed in its original vacuum package.

The process is most effective on lower grades of meat, especially beef rounds, which are lower in fat content and considered by consumers as too tough for broiling or grilling. Beef cuts that must typically be braised or marinated over time can now be barbecued like steaks, adding consumer convenience. Consumers can enjoy economical, lower-fat cuts of meat with the organoleptic qualities of more expensive cuts, says Hydrodyne.

A pilot system is shown in the adjoining photo. According to Hydrodyne president and CEO Stanford Klapper, the most efficient installation in a packing plant would consist of four such systems arranged as a ?quad.? A large packer would probably operate two quads. Four systems (one quad) operating in sequence 16 hours (two shifts) per day can tenderize 1 million lbs. of beef per week, Klapper told Food Engineering. Because vacuum-packaged retail cuts can also be tenderized in the package, the process fits case-ready programs. At this writing, a commercial installation was ?imminent,? said Klapper.

Invented by retired scientist and Hydrodyne Chairman John B. Long back in the 1960s, the process has only now become commercially feasible for two reasons:

  • More than 90% of beef today is shipped from processing plants as deboned cuts in vacuum-sealed bags;
  • Beef consumption has declined as consumers turned to lower-fat proteins, mainly poultry, in recent years. By tenderizing leaner cuts, Hydrodyne hopes the process will help meat packers boost red-meat consumption. The process is also effective with pork, lamb and chicken.


USDA research, DOE funding

Hydrodyne Inc. and USDA?s Agriculture Research Service (ARS) joined in a five-year Cooperative Research & Development Agreement (CRADA) to develop the process. Tests conducted since 1993 by the ARS Meat Science Laboratory at Beltsville, Md., demonstrated that the process significantly improves meat tenderness without affecting other organoleptic qualities such as appearance and taste.

Sensory test panels at Kansas State University confirmed that Hydrodyne-processed beef cuts are significantly more tender than controls. In 1994, the Department of Energy provided a grant toward fabricating a prototype system. The prototype was installed in a Hydrodyne pilot plant built with support from the engineering firm Kellogg Brown & Root (a unit of Halliburton Co.) at Buena Vista, Va., in 1996.

Kellogg Brown & Root will provide exclusive turnkey design, construction, operation and maintenance services for the Hydrodyne tenderizing process in customer meat-processing plants around the world.