Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Master of Science (MS)


Nutrition, Dietetics, and Food Sciences

Department name when degree awarded

Nutrition and Food Sciences

Committee Chair(s)

Daren P. Cornforth


Daren P. Cornforth


Charles Carpenter


Deloy Hendricks


Sporadic problems with pink color defect, or pinking, has occurred in cooked meat products for decades. Pink color can be due to the presence of undenatured myoglobin, denatured globin hemochromes, or nitrosylhemochrome. This research documented the level of added nitrite that produced nitrosylhemochrome in processed meat rolls from fabricated beef round, pork shoulder, turkey breast, and chicken breast. For each meat type, preliminary studies were conducted to narrow the range at which added nitrite caused pinking. Subsequently, the nitrite levels were increased incrementally by 1-ppm, and pink color was measured by trained panelists and by a Hunter color meter. Nitrosylhemochrome content was determined by acetone extraction.

Panel and instrumental measurements identified pink color in beef samples formulated with 14-ppm nitrite; nitrosohemochrome extracts detected pigment at 12- ppm. Nitrite levels that caused pinking in pork shoulder were much lower than in beef. Panelists identified pink color at 4-ppm nitrite, and Hunter color meter values showed increased redness at 6-ppm. Pigment extraction detected nitrosylhemochrome at 4- ppm added nitrite. The trained panel and Hunter color meter detected pink color in turkey breast at 2-ppm added nitrite; nitrosohemochrome extraction detected pink pigment at 3-ppm added nitrite. In chicken breast, pink color was detected visually and instrumentally at 1-ppm added nitrite. Pigment extraction detected nitrosylhemochrome at 2-ppm added nitrite. Lower levels of nitrite (1-3-ppm) caused pinking in light-colored meats (turkey and chicken breast, meats with total pigment between 19-ppm and 27-ppm). Higher levels of nitrite (5-14-ppm) caused pink color defect in dark pigmented meat (beef round and pork shoulder, meats with total pigment levels between 56-ppm and 147-ppm). Regression analysis was used to relate total pigment and the minimum level of nitrite causing pinking. The minimum nitrite level causing pinking was the lowest level of nitrite at which the trained panel, acetone extraction, and instrumental results detected pink color or nitrosyl pigment. The formula obtained from the model was as follows: Y = 0.092X + 0.53, where "Y" is the minimum level of added nitrite to cause pinking and "X" is the total pigment of the meat. This formula can be used to estimate the level of nitrite that can be expected to cause pinking in a wide range of pigmented meats.