Performance, muscle composition and meat texture in veal calves administered a β-agonist (clenbuterol)

Meat Sci. 1993;33(2):191-206. doi: 10.1016/0309-1740(93)90059-Q.


The effect of clenbuterol administration on performance, muscle composition and meat texture was studied in veal calves. Three groups, of ten animals each, were assigned to the three following treatments for 27 days: control, administration of 0·3 and 1·0 ppm in the feed (dry matter basis). After a 14-day withdrawal period, the animals were slaughtered, and three muscles were sampled (M. longissumus thoracis; M. triceps brachii caput longum; M. rectus abdominis). During the period of clenbuterol administration, the treated calves exhibited a higher daily liveweight gain (DLWG) and a higher feed conversion efficiency (FCE) compared to those of the control calves, but these effects were reversed during the subsequent withdrawal period. At slaughter, the overall DLWG, FCE and carcass weight were similar in the three treatments, but the dressing percentage in the clenbuterol-treated calves was up to 5·7 points higher than that of the control calves. In the muscles studied, the clenbuterol had little effect on pH, sarcomere length, dry matter and nitrogen contents, collagen heat stability (solubility, isometric tension) or cooking loss; but it markedly reduced the content of lipids, collagen and haem pigments. The clenbuterol also affected myofibrillar strength after ageing, measured either on raw meat or on cooked meat. This was particularly evident in cooked meat which showed up to a two-fold increase in mechanical parameters (maximum stress, compression modulus) after the clenbuterol treatment. No dose effect was detected except for the mechanical parameters. It was concluded that clenbuterol administration affects, meat in two opposite ways, viz. a marked toughening effects, due to a reduction in the muscle ageing rate, that is not compensated by a concomitant tenderizing effect (through a decrease in the intramuscular collagen content).