Nitrite-embedded packaging utilizes nitrite embedded in the film (Siegel, 2011). When nitrite comes in contact with meat, a series of biochemical reactions take place, and finally, a bright red pigment called nitric oxide myoglobin is formed (Siegel, 2011). A bright red appearance is preferred by consumers at retail (Carpenter, Cornforth, & Whittier, 2001). Dark-cutting beef has a darker appearance, limiting its use in retail settings based on consumer perception. Nitric oxide myoglobin formation in nitrite-embedded packaging has been shown to improve the redness of dark-cutting beef, and the addition of rosemary to nitrite-embedded packaging further improved the appearance of dark-cutting beef compared to polyvinyl chloride (PVC) film (Ramanathan et al., 2018). There is limited knowledge on the effects of repackaging dark-cutting steaks into PVC from the nitrite-embedded packaging system.  

Dark-cutting (pH = 6.21-6.77) and USDA Low Choice loins (pH = 5.53-5.59) were obtained from a commercial processing facility (Creekstone Farms, Arkansas City, Kan.) and transported back to Oklahoma State University on ice. Dark-cutting loins were enhanced with rosemary (0.1%) and glucono delta lactone (0.5%). Steaks were sliced from the enhanced and nonenhanced dark-cutting sections. Nitrite-embedded packaging was used for the enhanced dark-cutting steaks, and USDA Low Choice and nonenhanced dark-cutting steaks were packaged in vacuum packaging. After a dark storage of 3, 6 or 9 days, the steaks were removed from their packaging and placed in PVC (15,500-16,275 cm3 O2/m2/24 h at 23°C, E-Z Wrap Crystal Clear Polyvinyl Chloride Wrapping Film; Koch Supplies; Kansas City, Mo.) for 6 days of retail display. The HunterLab spectrophotometer was used to measure retail color every 12 hours along with six trained panelists evaluating surface discoloration [1 = no discoloration (0%), 7 = extensive discoloration (81-100%)]. The nitric oxide myoglobin content during retail display was determined using the reflectance from the HunterLab spectrophotometer. Chroma was determined torepresent the red intensity of the surface of the steak (AMSA, 2012).

Upon repackaging, the enhanced dark-cutting steaks had similar redness and red intensity (> 0.05) as the USDA Choice steaks at hour 0 of retail display. The repackaged enhanced dark-cutting steaks decreased (< 0.05) in redness and red intensity within 12 hours of retail display compared to the USDA Choice steaks. Nitric oxide myoglobin content loss paralleled with the decrease in redness in retail display. Enhanced dark-cutting steaks were more (< 0.05) discolored than the USDA Choice and nonenhanced dark-cutting steaks at 12 hours of display for all dark storage periods. Additionally, by the end of display, the enhanced dark-cutting steaks had greater (< 0.05) discoloration than USDA Choice and nonenhanced dark-cutting steaks for steaks stored in dark storage 3 or 6 days.

In conclusion, the enhancement of glucono delta-lactone and nitrite-embedded packaging resulted in the improvement of the color of dark-cutting steaks. The process of repackaging the enhanced dark-cutting steaks in PVC resulted in greater surface discoloration and loss of redness. Therefore, we concluded that the anaerobic nitrite-embedded packaging system improves redness of dark-cutting steaks. However, repackaging in traditional PVC is not an option for color stability.


AMSA (2012). Meat color measurement guidelines. Champaign, IL, USA: American Meat Science Association.

Carpenter, C. E., Cornforth, D. P., & Whittier, D. (2001). Consumer preferences for beef color and packaging did not affect eating satisfaction. Meat Science, 57(4), 359-363. doi:

Ramanathan, R., Mitacek, R. M., Billups, S. D., Jadeja, R., Pfeiffer, M. M., Mafi, G. G., & VanOverbeke, D. L. (2018). Novel nitrite-embedded packaging improves surface redness of dark-cutting longissimus steaks. Translational Animal Science, 2(2), 135-143. doi: 10.1093/tas/txy006

Siegel, D. (2011). An update on packaging fresh meat with nitrite-containing film. 64th Reciprocal Meat Conference, June 22. Kansas State University (Presentation).

For more information:

Repackaging Nitrite-Embedded Dark-Cutting Steak in Aerobic Polyvinyl Chloride Film Decreases Surface Redness

Authors: Morgan L. Denzer, Gretchen G. Mafi, Deborah L. VanOverebeke, Ranjith Ramanathan. Meat and Muscle Biology 5(1). p.1-12. Doi: