University of Melbourne scientist studies the muscle behind meat science

18 September 2014

A new study into meat tenderness could refine the way Australians cook steak.
Meat Scientist Professor Robyn Warner from the University of Melbourne’s Department of Agriculture and Food Systems and her collaborators conducted studies of what happens to meat cells under a microscope while it was being cooked.
“We know meat shrinks when it’s cooked, but we saw something surprising; meat shrinks not just once but twice, and we have captured it in video,” Professor Warner said. “Our observation is two separate meat proteins must change shape during the cooking process, one at about 55-60 degrees Celsius and another at about 75.
“Our study also showed it’s the water inside the meat cells that drives the change in texture during the cooking process,” the University of Melbourne professor said.
Researchers previously thought it was the white strands (the connective tissue) that influenced meat cell shrinkage during cooking but it appears to be proteins inside the cell that are shrinking and driving water out of the cells.

The aim of the study, published in Meat Science, was to understand the basis for how meat tenderness varies between muscle types and animals. The result will play a role in informing industry meat standards.
“By having a better understanding of these changes that occur during cooking, we hope to take ordinary muscle and treat it in some way or use the best cooking procedure to actually improve its quality and make it a better tasting meat.”
Professor Robyn Warner’s collaborators included Ms Joanne Hughes and Dr Sofia Oiseth of CSIRO, and Professor Peter Purslow, formerly of Guelph University in Canada and currently with Tandil University in Argentina.

University of Melbourne Department of Agriculture and Food Systems

By improving the use of scarce resources for production and distribution of food and fibre, Department of Agriculture and Food Systems researchers at the University of Melbourne are working toward a sustainable farming future. Global food security is the greatest challenge of the next century, and it is essential that the agricultural industry is supported with innovative research, advanced technology and societal adjustments to make this possible.
Melbourne environmental science academics are experts in plant molecular biology and biotechnology, animal science and production, soil and plant nutrition, food science and biotechnology, efficient use of water for irrigation and in dairies, innovative and environmentally sustainable agricultural, horticultural and viticultural production systems and agribusiness processes.

Master of Food Science

Students of the Master of Food Science will develop in-depth knowledge of how agricultural produce is delivered as safe, nutritious and palatable food into local and global markets. Graduates understand food manufacturing industry influencers such as regulatory framework, international trade and the influence of biotechnological methods in food production.
In this program, students learn to manage innovative, sustainable and safe food production:

  • Investigate the interdisciplinary nature of agriculture, food production and food science at an advanced level
  • Strengthen their food chemistry, microbiology, quality and processing expertise
  • Explore advanced research topics and their practical application in commercial settings

Program: Master of Food Science
Location: Parkville Campus, Melbourne
Semester intakes: March and July each year
Duration: 2 years
Application deadline: October 31, 2014 for the March 2015 intake; April 30, 2015 for the July 2015 intake
Entry requirements
1. In order to be considered for entry, applicants must have completed

  • an undergraduate degree with at least 65% weighted average, or equivalent; or
  • a graduate or postgraduate certificate in any discipline with at least an 65% weighted average, or equivalent; or
  • a graduate or postgraduate diploma in any discipline with at least an 65% weighted average, or equivalent; or
  • an honours degree in any discipline, or equivalent.

Applicants will be asked to provide

  • a curriculum vitae or resume; and
  • two academic referee reports; and
  • a personal statement outlining why they wish to be considered for the course.

Meeting these requirements does not guarantee selection.
2. In ranking applications, the Selection Committee will consider

  • prior academic performance; and
  • the curriculum vitae or resume; and
  • the referee reports; and
  • the personal statement.

3. The Selection Committee may seek further information to clarify any aspect of an application in accordance with the Admission and Selection into Course Policy.

Apply to the Master of Food Science at the University of Melbourne!


Receive more information about studying the Master of Food Science and other environmental sciences programs at the University of Melbourne. Contact OzTREKK Australian Environmental Sciences Admissions Officer Rachel Brady at or call toll free in Canada at 1-866-698-7355.