Muscle Foods

Muscle Foods

Muscle Foods Research at UCC

Dr. Joseph Kerry


Consumer perception of meat, poultry and seafood quality arises from the interaction of several factors, including; appearance, texture and flavor, as well as safety, nutrition, convenience, value-for-money and animal welfare issues. However, such perception extends from fresh muscle-based food products right through to fully processed products. Within the latter category reside the category of convenience foods which range from ready-to-eat to heat and serve. With such a broad category of products, research within this field is very challenging. Yet, despite this fact, research within this field may become even more challenging in to the future. Muscle-based foods represent the primary source of global protein for the human population. If predictions are correct, we are to experience a doubling of the world’s population over the next 20-30 years and questions are now being asked with respect to where and how our protein sources are to be derived. This, coupled with concerns over environmental impact caused by animal production for muscle, energy and resource consumption and availability for muscle production, food security issues etc. all point to greater research being required in the Muscle Food research area in order that these issues be addressed calmly and in a manner that will ultimately deliver solutions. Because of the manner in which Muscle Food research has evolved at UCC over the past 50 years, the Muscle Food research group at UCC which is lead by Dr Eileen O’Neill (Muscle Food Chemistry) and Dr. Joe Kerry (Muscle Food Technology) is well recognized internationally for its scientific contribution to this area and very capable of participating in most aspects of muscle food research at either a national or international level.

The three main areas of Research of Dr. Joe Kerry are:

  1. Improvement in composition, nutritive value, quality and shelf-life of muscle foods through assessment of pre- and post-slaughter factors
  2. Development of novel, value-added, convenience-style muscle food products
  3. Assessment of novel processing technologies for development of muscle-based food products


Laboratory Facilities and Services


    • State-of-the-art muscle food processing facilities for fresh and processed meats
    • Specialised processing areas for cooking, smoking, curing, enrobing, extruding and canning
    • Wide range of chilling and freezing technologies available
    • Packaging and Sensory sciences support services
    • HACCP compliant facilities for manufacture of commercially compliant products
    • Meat processing facilities. Meat processing equipment including mincers, bowl-chopper, multi-needle injector etc.
    • High pressure processing unit for pressures up to 900 MPa.
    • Sensory laboratory with kitchen for sample preparation. fulfilling the requirements of the international standards ASTM, 1986 and ISO, 1988
    • Shelf life testing laboratory
    • Flexible multi-mode for R&D retort capable of running numerous processes including water immersion


    Sensory Science

    Sensory Science in UCC has its origins in the sensory evaluation of foods, and in applying multivariate data analysis tools for the evaluation of trained panel and consumer test results. The overall activities aim to contribute to knowledge and expertise relevant for improving the sensory quality of products and meals and promoting health through the enjoyment of food.

    Competitive Advantage to Clients

    • Survey of market sector: Establish all competitor products across the retail spectrum.
    • Questionnaire development: Bespoke product specific sensory solution.
    • Sensory evaluation (Consumer Preference and Descriptive profiling) of a product against all competitor products in the marketplace.
    • Advanced multivariate data analysis of compiled data. APLSR, DPLSR.
    • Determination of the positive and negative sensory drivers of a product based on consumer preference and using multivariate data analysis.
    • Optimisation of positive sensory drivers and minimisation of negative driver effects within the sensory specification.

    It is well documented that more than 90% of all New Product Development (NPD) in the food and beverages industry fails - some claim the figure is in fact closer to 98%. The methods developed at UCC have proven effective with our commercial clients allowing them to increase their market share.

    Service Details

    • Sensory evaluation of products (Consumer Preference and Descriptive profiling) over the specification shelf life.
    • The Sensory data can be combined with analytical (i.e. lipid oxidation, pack gas analysis) and microbiological analysis to establish optimum shelf life. This process can be achieved across the supply chain and can be designed to account for temperature and humidity fluctuations during product storage.
    • Sensory evaluation of products (as above) over the specification shelf life to optimise a packaging solution (existing or new packaging material or modified gas atmosphere).
    • Sensory evaluation of products (as above) over the specification shelf life after reformulation with a new recipe or after ingredient substitution.

    Chemical and Shelflife Testing of Muscle Foods

    The shelf-life of muscle foods is of critical importance with respect to quality, safety, and sensory acceptability. The chemical composition of meat and meat products renders it susceptible to a range of quality deterioration processes with a negative impact on factors such as colour, lipid stability, microbiology and sensory properties. A range of strategies (e.g. antimicrobial and antioxidant compounds, modified atmosphere packaging (MAP)) are available for the control of quality deterioration in muscle foods. Measurement of the impact, efficacy and potency of such compounds and storage conditions is key to developing meat products with adequate quality and shelf-life properties.

    Facilities, Equipment and Testing

    • Meat processing and packaging facilities.
    • Shelf-life/testing laboratory.
    • Sensory analysis unit.
    • Meat processing equipment including mincers, bowl-chopper, multi-needle injector etc.
    • Modified atmosphere packaging (MAP) and vacuum  packaging technologies.
    • Gas sensor and package integrity testing.
    • Compositional analysis (Protein, moisture, fat, ash).
    • Microbiological analysis of muscle foods.
    • Warner-Bratzler shear force and texture profile analysis (TPA).
    • Analytical instrumentation (Minolta colorimeter, HPLC, GC-MS, FT-IR spectrometer and microscope.
    • A vast array of chemical analysis techniques including fatty acid analysis, measurement of lipid stability (TBA test) and in vitro antioxidant assays (TPC, DPPH and FRAP).
    • Compliance with Legislation & Labelling.


Staff Member Profile

Dr. Joseph Kerry

Principal Investigator


Phone: +353-(0)21-4903798‌

Career to date

1994–1999: Post-Doctoral Research Scientist, University

College Cork

1999–2001: Temporary-Full-Time College Lecturer,

University College Cork

2001–2006: College Lecturer,

University College Cork

2006–Present: Senior College Lecturer

University College Cork


I work on various aspects of food packaging, shelf-life stability, food composition and numerous aspects of food quality, particularly in relation to muscle-based foods (meat, poultry and seafood). I have strong links with industry and my research team assists companies in relation to new food product development. I have 200+ publications in peer-reviewed international journals, 300+ presentations at major international conferences, along with several other significant publications. My expertise includes use and manipulation of modified atmosphere packaging systems for use with foods, use of extrusion technology for the manufacture of food products/ packaging materials, applications, sensor and new technology developments within the area of food packaging, especially, smart packaging materials and technologies.

Dr. Malco Cruz Romero

Postdoctoral Researcher


Phone: +353-(0)21-4903544‌


BSc. Agricultural National University, La Molina, Lima,Peru. 1992

Eng. Agricultural National University, La Molina, Lima,Peru. 1996.

MSc. University College, Cork, Ireland, 2002

PhD. University College, Cork, Ireland. 2006


1995–1996: Lecturer, Universidad Nacional de Ancash Santiago Antunez de Mayolo, Faculty of Engineering and

Food Industries, Huaraz, Peru.

1996–2000: Teaching assistant and Lecturer, Universidad Agraria La Molina, Faculty of Food industries, Lima, Peru

2006–2009: Post Doctoral Research Scientist, University College Cork

2009–2012: Senior Post Doctoral Research Scientist, University College Cork

2012–present: Senior Research Support Officer


My primary research interests relate to aspects of novel processing technologies (e.g. High pressure treatment), development of smart packaging systems and nanotechnologies. In particular, food packaging, microbiological and physicochemical changes of processed meat products, rheological and textural properties of foods, food quality enhancement, material science aspects of foods, particularly how process conditions, including novel processing technologies, affect structure and resulting properties. A particular focus of my current research relates to nanotechnology focused on producing and utilizing metal and foodderived nanoparticles for use in smart packaging materials and the use of nanoparticles in various food applications, e.g. marinades, sauces. Applications of polymer processing techniques to food systems and development/use of bio-based plastics as alternatives to petroleum-based plastics. Value added processing of muscle foods for quality, stability and performance. In addition, I have a strong scientific background in biochemical, physicochemical and microbiological quality aspects of muscle foods and shelf- life evaluation of foods.

 Dr. Michael O'Grady


Phone: +353-(0)21-4903528


M.Sc. University College Cork, Ireland. 2010

Ph.D. University College Dublin, Ireland. 2000

B.Agr.Sc. University College Dublin, Ireland. 1994


2013 – date: Research Support Officer, UniversityCollege Cork.

2009 – 2013: Senior Research Scientist, UCC.

2006 – 2009 : Project Co-ordinator/Scientist, UCC.

2004 – 2006: Research Technologist, UCC.

2001 – 2004: Post-Doctoral Research Scientist, UCC.


Dr. O’Grady has extensive research experience in the School of Food and Nutritional Sciences in UCC where he has worked on a variety of national and EU funded research projects including high pressure processing of foods, the manipulation of bovine and porcine diets and effects on meat quality, development of healthier meats and meat products, innovation in fresh beef packaging and marine functional foods research. He has also worked on collaborative research projects in conjunction with the Irish food industry.

  • Research interests and expertise include:
  • Quality and shelf-life evaluation of muscle foods.
  • Food processing technologies and ingredients.
  • Antioxidants – analysis, functionality and potency.
  • Bioactive ingredients from marine sources.
  • Stability and activity of bioactive compounds.
  • Nutraceuticals and functional foods.
  • Animal dietary supplementation studies.


Theme 1. Improvement in the composition, nutritive value, quality and shelf-life of Muscle Food products

In more recent times, Muscle Foods have suffered from negative public perceptions from a whole host of issues, but in particular, from two specific issues associated with saturated fat contributions to the diet from meat and the addition of synthetic processing aids in the development and production of processed Muscle Food products. Research in UCC has, for many years, investigated various natural animal feeding systems and nutritional dietary supplements as a means of altering Muscle Food composition while at the same time enhancing product quality. More recently, Muscle-based Food has begun to be looked at as a natural vehicle for the delivery of neutraceuticals (health promoting substances) derived primarily from natural plant extracts (phytochemicals) as well as at the reduction of fat and salt in processed Muscle Food products. Research in this area at UCC has clearly shown the benefits of using such beneficial chemicals to promote both animal and human health, while at the same time eliminating more negative product components, thereby providing the Muscle Food processor with a means of enhancing the sale of products through the creation of new niche markets, elimination of synthetic or unhealthy compounds from product processing and delivering novel approaches to extending product shelf-life.



Theme 2. Development of novel, value-added and convenience-style Muscle Food products

Convenience-style and value-added Muscle Foods represent a rapidly growing sector of the food industry. Many of these products contain some form of Muscle Food. Such products now make up the staple diet of what are termed as ‘cash rich, time poor’ consumers. This consumer category is significant within the marketplace and continues to grow at quite a dramatic rate. This market segment has been created by demographic and societal changes which include increased participation of women in the workforce, an ageing population, smaller family sizes and more intensive and time-pressured lifestyles. ‘Cash rich, time poor’ consumers demand products which are formulated to be of a high quality but which are convenient in preparation, heat or cook quickly, easy to consume and reduce clean-up time. Research in UCC has focused on ways to develop novel, niche products from muscle-food sources (meat, poultry or fish) which may have been under-utilized or which have been under-valued based on technical difficulties associated with the Muscle Food material in question. The use of such materials along with modifications in processing technologies and food ingredients has allowed for the creation of niche, value-added, convenient, affordable and healthy Muscle Food containing products.


Theme 3. Assessment of novel processing technologies for development of Muscle-based Food products

The Muscle Foods industry has always been to the forefront in assessing the potential that new processes or processing technologies might bring to enhancing the quality and safety associated with these protein-rich perishable and high risk materials. Additionally, processes and technologies which might enhance the sensory properties and eating quality of Muscle Foods will always be of interest to the industry as well as those processes that minimize wastage, reduce energy costs, make manufacturing leaner and more environmentally-friendly or simply provide new retail- and consumer-friendly products that possess visual appeal and are convenient to use. Whatever the reason; assessment of new technologies, as they appear on the market, need to be assessed so as to determine their true effectiveness. The Muscle Foods research group in UCC has strong interests in this theme area and has conducted significant research in the areas of; packaging technologies, high pressure processing, pouch retorting, Pi-Vac application, irradiation etc.


Selected Recent Publications

O’Flynn, C.C., Cruz-Romero, M.C., Troy, D.J., Mullen. A.M., Kerry, J.P. (2014) The application of highpressure treatment in the reduction of salt levels in reduced-phosphate breakfast sausages. Meat Science 96, 1266–1274.

O’Flynn, C.C., Cruz-Romero, M.C., Troy, D.J., Mullen. A.M., Kerry, J.P. (2014) The application of highpressure treatment in the reduction of phosphate levels in breakfast sausages. Meat Science 96, 633–639.

Cruz-Romero, M.C, Murphy, T., Morris, M., Cummins, E. and Kerry, J.P. (2013) Antimicrobial activity of chitosan, organic acids and nano-sized solubilisates for potential use in smart antimicrobially-active packaging for potential food applications. Food Control 34, 393–397.

Rodríguez-Calleja, J.M, Cruz-Romero, M.C., O’Sullivan, M.G., García-López, M.L., Kerry, J.P. (2012) High-pressure-based hurdle strategy to extend the shelf-life of fresh chicken breast fillets. Food Control, 25, 516–524.

Cushen, M., Kerry, J., Morris, M., Cruz-Romero, M., Cummins, E. (2014) Evaluation and simulation of silver and copper nanoparticle migration from polyethylene nanocomposites to food and an

associated exposure assessment. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 62, 1403–1411.

Cushen, M., Kerry, J., Morris, M., Cruz-Romero, M. Cummins, E. (2013) Migration and exposure assessment of silver from a PVC nanocomposite. Food Chemistry 139, 389–397.

McArdle, R.A., Marcos, B., Mullen, A.M. and Kerry, J.P. (2013). Influence of HPP conditions on selected lamb quality attributes and their stability during chilled storage. Innovative Food Science and Emerging Technologies, 19, 66–72.

Hempel, A., Papkovsky, D.B. and Kerry, J.P. (2013). Use of optical oxygen sensors in non-destructively determining the levels of oxygen present in combined vacuum and modified atmosphere packaged precooked, convenience-style foods and the use of ethanol emitters to extend product shelf-life. Foods, 2, 507–520.

Zakrys-Walliwander, P.I., O’Sullivan, M.G., O’Neill, E.E. and Kerry, J.P. (2012). The effects of high oxygen modified atmosphere packaging on protein oxidation of bovine M. longissimus dorsi muscle during chilled storage. Food Chemistry, 131, 527–532.

Troy, D.J. and Kerry, J.P. (2010). Consumer perception and the role of science in the meat industry – a review. Meat Science, 86, 214–226

Zakrys, P.I., O’Sullivan, M.G., Allen, P. and Kerry, J.P. (2009). Consumer acceptability and physiochemical characteristics of modified atmosphere packed beef steaks. Meat Science, 81, 720–725.

Kerry, J.P., O’Grady, M.N. and Hogan, S.A. (2006). Past, current and potential utilisation of active and intelligent packaging systems for meat and muscle based products: a review. Meat Science, 74, 113–130.

Molinaro, S., Cruz-Romero, M., Boaro, M., Sensidoni, A., Lagazio, A., Morris, M., Kerry, J.P. (2013). Effect of nanoclay-type and PLA optical purity on the characteristics of PLA-based nanocomposite films. Journal of Food Engineeering 117, 113–123.

Moroney, N.C., O’Grady, M.N., O’Doherty, J.V., Kerry, J.P. (2013). Effect of a brown seaweed (Laminaria digitata) extract containing laminarin and fucoidan on the quality and shelf-life of fresh and cooked minced pork patties. Meat Science 94, 304–311.

Murphy, K.M., O’Grady, M.N., Kerry, J.P (2013). Effect of varying the gas headspace to meat ratio on the quality and shelf-life of beef steaks packaged in high oxygen modified atmosphere packs. Meat Science 94, 447–454.

Hayes, J.E., Allen, P., Brunton, N., O’Grady, M.N., Kerry, J.P. (2011). Phenolic composition and in vitro antioxidant capacity of four commercial phytochemical products: olive leaf extract (Olea

europaea L.), lutein, sesamol and ellagic acid. Food Chemistry 126, 948–955.

O’Grady M.N., Kerry, J.P. (2010). The effect of non-meat ingredients on quality parameters in meat and poultry. In: Chemical Deterioration and Physical Instability of Food and Beverages. L.H. Skibsted, J. Risbo and M.L. Andersen, eds., (pp 701–725), Woodhead Publishing Limited, Cambridge, England.

School of Food and Nutritional Sciences

Scoil na nEolaíochtaí Bhia agus Chothúcháin

School of Food and Nutritional Sciences, Room 240 Food Science Building, University College, Cork