Lexicon for Meat Science & Technology Allied Fields

Meat Science Lexicon

During the slaughter process an animal is converted into a carcass component and a non-carcass component. The non-carcass component can be further divided into edible and inedible portions referred to as offal. Offal includes items such as organs, skin, hides, blood, horns, head, intestinal contents, feet, and other portions of the animal not associated with the carcass component. Edible offal is also referred to as variety meats. Variety meats include organs and tissues such as the liver, hearts, kidneys, uteri, cheek meat, and other organs or tissues that are deemed wholesome, and sold as food for human consumption. The acceptability/palatability of offal varies by geographic region based on consumer cultural practices, regulatory requirements, hygiene legislation, and religion.

Inedible offal is also referred to as by-products. By-products include hides, feathers, poultry blood, and organs such as the lungs that in the U.S. are not inspected and, therefore, are not sold as food for human consumption. Products derived from the carcass component and edible offal are referred to as meat.

Meat – Skeletal muscle and its associated tissues such as nerves, connective tissues, capillaries, fat, and bones (incidental bone is included since it is part of the retail cut, but not eaten—e.g., T-bone steak) derived from non-human mammalian, avian, and aquatic species. Edible offal consisting of organs and non-skeletal muscle tissues also are considered meat. These tissues from other animal species intended for, and judged safe and suitable for human consumption are included under the term meat.

Red/White Meat – These terms are a traditional, broad classification of meats based on specie, color and/or lipid composition that have been used for regulatory/historic/nutritional/health classification purposes. Red meat has been most commonly associated with beef, pork, and lamb, whereas white meat has been most commonly associated with breast muscle from chicken and turkey. These designations do not adequately describe unique properties associated with the various species such as visual and cooked color, myoglobin content, lipid content and nutrient profile, and are inappropriate to broadly classify meats for health and nutritional purposes.

Meat Processing – All meat is processed to varying degrees. This can include any meat product produced via various levels of physical or biochemical transformation of meat from a chilled carcass into a final or finished product that is deemed desirable by consumers.


Listed below are descriptions of the major meat classifications and subcategories presented by classification, species and specific category in Tables 1-6 for ease of use and identification of a specific meat item or product. Examples of common names are given in the descriptions below as well as in Tables 1-6.

I. Minimal processing - Any process where raw, uncooked meat products have not been significantly altered compositionally, but may have been reduced in size by fabrication, mincing, grinding, and/or a meat recovery system.

a. Raw, intact no ingredients added:  A meat product produced in a manner that does not fundamentally or only minimally alters the physical composition of the raw meat. This meat product has no non-meat ingredients added.

Primal and subprimal cuts (wholesale/whole muscle cuts), retail cuts, and trimmings.

b. Raw, non-intact, no added ingredients: A meat product that has been mechanically treated to partially disrupt the muscle structure to enhance tenderness or provide a specific shape to meet product specifications.

i. Mechanically tenderized: A meat product that has undergone physical alteration to enhance tenderness or quality, e.g. cubing, blade tenderization, maceration, pounding.

ii. Ground/comminuted/diced/flaked: A meat product that has undergone a reduction in particle size. This is sometimes an initial step before other processes.

iii. Formed/shaped, e.g. patties, pressed, and/or shaped products

c. Edible Offal/Variety Meats:  Raw, skeletal and/or non-skeletal portion of the non-carcass component of an animal that is deemed wholesome, and sold as food for human consumption either as a single item or incorporated into products that require additional preparation steps.

i. Product Examples – tongue, heart, liver, tripe, sweetbreads, hog maw, oxtail, chitterlings, intestines, kidney, pig’s feet, knuckles, ears, snouts, calves’ feet, broiler backs, neck, giblets, gizzard, liver, feet, poultry paws, heart, oxlips, cheek meat, head meat, honeycomb tripe, omasum, abomasum, tripas, large intestines, bungs, uteri, ovaries, ears, pork skin (chicharrons, pork rinds), calf/ lamb testicles,

ii. Edible bone products – feet, neck, marrow, bones, poultry paws

iii. Rendered Products – gelatin, edible tallow

iv. Other – edible blood, casings

d. Raw, lean recovered:  A mechanical process, beyond fabrication, that removes or separates lean meat with minimal nutritional change the remaining lean meat from knife trimmed bones or high fat raw meat. This raw meat product is labeled as species specific meats.

i. Finely Textured Meat:  A lean meat derived from edible high fat trimmings that has been desinewed and subjected to a mild heat treatment to melt/separate the fat fraction and allow recovery of the lean meat portion.

ii. Partially Defatted Tissues:  Meat that is mechanically recovered from edible trimmings after desinewing following the application of mild heat to melt/remove the lipid component. The raw meat product derived from pork or beef trimmings must have at least 12% visible lean meat and generally have a protein content between 17% and 20%.

iii. Mechanically Separated/Deboned Meat: A paste-like product derived by mechanically removing edible lean tissue from bones of pork, poultry and fish by the application of high pressure and extrusion through a fine sieve. The most common ways of accomplishing this is use of a screw and screen, a belt and drum system, and the use of backpressure.  Mechanically separated meat must be identified on a food label. Mechanically deboned beef is not allowed in human food in the USA. Mechanically deboned pork, chicken, and turkey are allowed in human food but must be included on the finished product label. According to 9 CFR chapter III subchapter A part 381, mechanically separated chicken may or may not contain skin with attached fat and shall not contain more than 1% bone solids. Further, at least 98% of bone particles shall not exceed 1.5 mm at the greatest dimension and there shall not be any pieces greater than 2.0 mm at the greatest dimension. Mechanically separated chicken shall not have a calcium concentration greater than 0.235% when made from mature chickens or turkeys. Calcium cannot exceed 0.175% when made from other poultry (USDA 2016b). This differs from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency definition where mechanically separated chicken contains no more than 0.027% of calcium for every 1% protein, with no bone particles larger than 2 mm in size, and has a minimum protein content of 10% protein (14% if destined for retail sale) (CFIA 2016)

iv. Advanced Meat Recovery (AMR) – A lean meat product derived by mechanical pressure to remove tissue from bones that does not alter the composition of the meat. The USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service does not require meat obtained from AMR systems to be specifically identified on a food label. These products cannot contain tissues from the central nervous system. According to 9 CFR 301.2 (rr)(2) meat obtained from the AMR process is produced with equipment that does not crush grind or pulverize bones. Bones emerging from this process appear comparable to bones resulting in hand-deboning of meat. Meat from advanced meat recovery systems cannot contain more than 0.15% (150 mg/100 g) of calcium (USDA 2016a). An example of the differences in definitions, regulations, and specifications that exist between United States regulatory agencies (USDA-FSIS) and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency for raw lean recovered products is given in Table 4. Other discrepancies exist between U.S. regulations and other regulatory agencies throughout the world.

II. Further Processing:  Any process where meat products undergo a transformation, beyond minimal processing, containing approved ingredients, and may be subjected to a preservation or processing step(s) through the application of salting, curing, fermentation, thermal processing (smoking and/or cooking), batter/breading, or other processes to enhance sensory, quality, and safety attributes. These products may include ready-to-cook and ready-to-eat products.  

a. Raw, non-intact with added ingredients:  A meat product produced in a manner that alters the composition, functional, and/or sensory characteristics of the raw meat. Cured and thermal processed (cooked and sometimes smoked) sausages are excluded.

i. Non-comminuted meat products with approved non-meat ingredients added for the purposes of enhancing flavor, quality and safety, e.g. salt, water, spices, phosphates, antimicrobials, plant extracts, etc. Products in this category could include enhanced, basted, or marinated whole muscle cuts.

ii. Formed/Shaped meat products, e.g. patties, pressed, and/or re-shaped products, using casings or cold bonding agents. Product examples include food service steaks, cutlets, roasts, etc.

iii. Tenderized meat products with exogenous enzymes added, e.g. papain, bromelain, or ficin, usually added as a dip or spray to the meat from mature cattle to improve meat tenderness.

b. Further processing, not thermally treated: Any further processed meat product that does not undergo a thermal treatment beyond temperatures utilized for fermentation or partial frying. Preservation or processing step(s) may include:

i. Cold Smoking – Application of smoke to meat at a low temperature (≤ 29.5°C) so as to produce unique flavors. Since cold smoking occurs at optimum temperatures for microbial growth, additional processing steps should be employed to ensure safety.

ii. Drying – The removal of moisture from meat through evaporation or sublimation.

iii. Fermentation – The use of bacteria to produce organic acids (primarily lactic acid) which preserves and imparts unique flavors to meat products. 

iv. Acidification – Lowering the pH of a meat product through fermentation or the direct addition of an organic acid.

v. Curing - Meat curing means the incorporation of salt, sodium or potassium nitrite and/or sodium or potassium nitrate [saltpeter], the latter of which is usually restricted to long-term cured or specialty meats. Additional ingredients (phosphates, ascorbic acid, etc.) are typically used in concert with curing agents to enhance functional properties, sensory characteristics and food safety. The fundamental utility of nitrite and/or nitrate (which must be converted to nitrite in situ) as a curing agent is to provide a cured color to meat products, inhibit the growth of a number of aerobic and anaerobic microorganisms, and particularly to suppress the outgrowth of Clostridium botulinum spores and prevent botulism. Nitrite and/or nitrate levels in cured meats are regulated by government agencies in many countries and their use is permitted only at levels sufficient to accomplish their intended purpose. Nitrite use in bacon in the US is restricted in order to minimize possible nitrosamine formation during cooking. Nitrite also functions as an antioxidant to inhibit warmed-over flavor, and contributes to the characteristic flavor of cured meats (Keeton 2011). Use of many ingredients (sodium nitrite, phosphates etc.) are restricted to specified levels by regulatory agencies and/or are self-limiting (i.e. salt, sugar).

vi. Battered/breaded -- Raw products that are typically coated with pre-dust or with a seasoned batter consisting of a blend of flour(s), starches and water, and/or a breading to produce a specific flavor, texture and/or mouth-feel. Coatings adhere to the product by briefly cooking/ frying in oil, known as partial frying (par-frying), to set the coating.

Product Examples –pork ribs/sandwich; pork, beef, poultry sausages (Italian sausage, bratwurst, bockwurst, chorizo, kielbasa, whole-hog sausage, breakfast sausage, chicken sausage, turkey sausage); brine injected or marinated meats (enhanced beef cuts, fajitas, pork loins, basted poultry); formed steaks, cutlets; dry-cured products (country-style ham, shoulder, bacon, jowl, prosciutto di parma, pancetta, coppa, bresaola, lox, capacolla); air dried sausages (Italian style salami, genoa, milano, sopressata); par-fried batter/breaded meats (nuggets, tenders, breasts, patties), fritters, fish sticks, fish portions  

c. Further processing, thermally/heat treated: Any further processed meat product that does undergo a thermal heat treatment ranging from partially heated to fully-cooked for the purpose of compositional changes, safety, and meeting finished product specifications. Preservation or processing step(s) may include:

i. Thermal Processing (including smoking and/or cooking)

ii. Drying – Products as described in section II. b, ii (above), but fully cooked to a pasteurization endpoint temperature.

iii. Fermentation – Products as described in section II. b, iii (above), but fully cooked to a pasteurization endpoint temperature.

iv. Acidification – Products as described in section II. b, iv (above), but fully cooked to a pasteurization endpoint temperature.

v. Curing – Products as described in section II. b, v (above), but fully cooked to a pasteurization endpoint temperature.

vi. Pickling – Immersion in a vinegar based solution

vii. Battered/breaded – Products as described in section II. b, vi (above), but fully cooked to a pasteurization endpoint temperature.

Product Examples – Deli/luncheon meats (olive loaf, minced ham, pickle and pimento loaf, honey loaf, head cheese, souse, scrapple, corned beef, corned beef brisket, beef tongue, beef pastrami, turkey pastrami); cured beef, pork, poultry products (ham, bacon, pork shoulder, pork butt, Canadian bacon, beef bacon, turkey bacon); pasteurized packaged/canned products (not commercially sterile); beef jerky; cooked sausages (frankfurters, wieners, bologna, cotto salami, Vienna sausage, bratwurst, braunschweiger, liverwurst, bockwurst, Polish sausage, knackwurst, Lebanon bologna, mettwurst, mortadella); dry and semi-dry sausages (pepperoni, hard salami, summer sausage, cervelat, thuringer); surimi; sous vide meats;  fully cooked/ready to eat batter/breaded meats (nuggets, tenders, breasts, patties), fritters, fish sticks, fish portions

d. Commercially sterile products: Products treated in a sealed container in a manner to achieve inactivation of spoilage and pathogenic microorganisms and/or their spores. These products are considered shelf-stable and do not require refrigeration to maintain their shelf-life. Process examples include retorting, high pressure pasteurization, and irradiation (see glossary for detailed definitions).

Product Examples – retorted canned products (hams, Vienna-style wieners, corned beef hash, roast beef, corned beef, beef stew, meat pot pies, chili con carne, tamales, spaghetti with meat balls, Spam™, pickled pig’s feet); retorted pouch products (meats in meals ready-to-eat), tuna, salmon; irradiated ready-to-eat meat products for applications like space travel and hospital diets)  [Note:  Some products, such as frozen beef patties, are irradiated to inactivate pathogens, but not all spoilage microorganisms. These products must continue to be held under refrigerated/frozen conditions and are not commercially sterile.]  

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