Beef ageing can be carried out in two ways, i.e. dry and wet. The historically older method that leads to the improvement of sensory characteristics (tenderness, juiciness, and palatability) is dry ageing of beef. However since the vacuum packaging was introduced in the 1970s, wet ageing began to prevail as a basic method of distribution, storage, and ageing of beef. Dry ageing fills a niche for the consumers willing to pay for something that may be considered a luxury rather than a necessity. It should also be emphasized that only the dry ageing process makes it possible to produce beef meat showing a unique flavour profile. However this treatment is an expensive venture because it is essential to provide both the proper raw material, i.e. meat of the highest quality grade with proper marbling and the controlled conditions of the microclimate in ageing rooms, which are indispensable for this process to run in the correct way. In addition, the losses incurred at the dry ageing stage and associated with a lower product yield (higher losses) mean a ca. 20 % higher price compared to that of the product ageing under vacuum conditions. Although dry beef ageing has been practiced for decades, the optimal process conditions have not yet been clearly defined. In the reference literature, the most frequently reported parameters are: temperature ranging between 0 and 4 ºC; relative humidity – 75 ÷ 85 % and air flow velocity – 0.2 ÷ 2.5 m/s. The dry beef ageing period is similar to that of wet ageing (usually from 14 to 35 days), although sometimes it can be increased by 2 or even 8 months. It should be stressed, that recently a significant increase has been found in the interest and demand for dry-ageing beef, which is linked with greater affluence of consumers, their growing awareness and with their search for new culinary experiences. This type of beef is considered to be a premium product, which is unique and of high quality, albeit more expensive.
beef, dry-ageing, process parameters, product quality, losses, innovative solutions