Scientific advances

It is during the phase of maturation that the two main qualities of the product develop: taste and tenderness. On a biochemical level, two major phenomena intervene: lipolysis and proteolysis.

Lipolysis contributes, notably, to the formation of the taste through the components that are liberated during this stage. Lipolysis depends notably on the quality and the quantity of the intramuscular fats present in the meat (the marbling).

This characteristic is directly linked to the way the live animals are fattened and brought through the finishing process.

Fattening that is undertaken too quickly would have a tendency to give a carcass a lot of external fat but little of the marbling fat because the latter forms during the final stages of finishing.

Proteolysis is also an important phenomenon since it contributes to improving the tenderness of the meat through progressive fractioning of the proteins and it also contributes to the formation of the taste.

On the other hand, during maturation certain undesirable phenomena can appear. This could be rancidity (the oxidation of the lipids) and the oxidation of the proteins, which could lead to the formation of unpleasant tastes and a degradation of the colour.

And, too, the maturation conditions must allow for the limitation of the development of the alteration of bacteria (Pseudomonas, Brochothrix, etc.) and evidently pathogens (salmonella, listeria, E. coli etc.).

In theory, the longer the maturation process, the more tender and more tasty the meat. In practice, the length of the maturation process varies by a few days for the industrialised distribution networks to a few weeks for top of the line meats.

A long maturation process sets off the biochemical processes that are similar to those found in the aging of cheese or the drying of salami meats.