Consumer acceptance and food safety are important concerns for suppliers of beef and other red meats. Although consumers provide the ultimate feedback on product quality, application of suitable instrumentation can provide rapid analysis, objectivity, and low costs per sample, which are not always possible using human subjects.

Selected Ion Flow Tube Mass Spectrometry (SIFT-MS) is a very rapid, sensitive technique for assuring freshness of beef and other red meats. With detection limits equivalent to those of the human olfactory system, minimal sample preparation, and direct analysis, SIFT-MS is a very effective technique for detecting spoiling of red meats, enabling wide-scale freshness screening.

Figures 1 and 2 show the results obtained for ground (minced) and sirloin steak cuts of New Zealand beef, respectively. Ground beef has a higher surface area per unit mass than steak, so is more susceptible to spoilage. Inorganic preservative is added to minced beef to prolong its shelf life. This appears to keep the dimethyl sulfide concentration constant for the duration of the reported study and also serves to moderate production of ethyl acetate. Ammonia and trimethylamine continue to be produced, however.

SIFT-MS Grounded (minced) beef headspace analysis

Figure 1. SIFT-MS headspace concentrations of various compounds above New Zealand ground (minced) beef at 37°C.


This study demonstrates that SIFT-MS is ideally suited to early detection of beef degradation via the volatile compounds emitted by spoilage organisms – even for steak, which has a much lower exposure to environmental microbes. The Syft Voice200ultra SIFT-MS instrument provides a robust, simple solution for sensitive, quantitative screening of large numbers of samples per day, both manually and automatically (via autosampler integration).

SIFT-MS Sirloin Steak headspace analysis

Figure 2. SIFT-MS headspace concentrations of various compounds above New Zealand sirloin steak at 37°C.


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