Safe and qualitative dry aging of beef

Problem and opportunity

OPTIDRYBEEF is an interdisciplinary project which will focus on process innovation and translation in the development of a specific food processing technology, with the potential to impact a broad range of stakeholders in the meat chain both on a national and international level: safe and qualitative dry aging of meat.

Several questions have arisen in the meat industry regarding dry aging of beef in recent years. These questions generally refer to gaining more insight into the characteristics of dry aged beef, more specifically:

  • the sensory quality, 
  • safety, 
  • the ideal process conditions 

All in order to bring a high quality and safe product into the market. OPTIDRYBEEF focuses on a comprehensive and integrated evaluation of the dry aging process to introduce dry aged beef as a high-quality product into the meat producing chain to strengthen the meat industry at the level of butchers, restaurants, caterers and supplying industry.

Research approach

This project aims at providing a comprehensive review of the dry aging process. Thereby, critical process conditions will be laid down within which it is possible to produce a safe, tasty and economical dry aged product.

  • For this purpose, a variety of dry aging processes will be carried out by the participating partners. Within these experiments, the parameters of dry aging chambers (relative humidity, temperature), the duration of aging and choice of the raw materials (e.g. type of animal, fat cover) will be varied.
  • In addition to the recording of all process parameters, microbiological and sensory monitoring of the meat during the dry aging process will be carried out. The likelihood of pathogens (Salmonella, Shigatoxin-producing E. coli (STEC) and Listeria monocytogenes) to survive and/or grow during the dry aging process and in consumer packaging will be determined for evaluating the safety of the process.
  • Furthermore, for this purpose, the hygienic status of the dry aging chambers will be characterized. To get more profound insights on the impact of dry-aging on aroma formation potential, taste panel analyses will be supported by chemical- analytical measurements of meat composition and quality, and detailed GC-MS analyses of the aroma profile will be conducted.
  • In addition to optimizing the process, further processing of crust is examined to improve the economics of the process.

The overall expected outcome of the present project is to provide the participating companies and the European food sector with data supporting the production of high-quality and safe dry aged meat products.

Market sector targeted and expected results

Dry aged beef is a high-quality and highly priced product with a strongly increasing production rate. This trend will be pushed forward by a change in consumer demand towards high-quality products. The meat and associated supply industry of which the majority is SME´s, will be supported by this proposal to address this demand and to take advantage of this.

  • Due to this project the machine builders will gain more knowledge about the influence of production parameters on safety and quality of the end product and can therefore better advice there customers and set an efficient working regime for their dry aging chambers.
  • The beef/meat producers can use the information, to optimize the production process to achieve a more economical process, or to start the production of dry aged beef or meat in general. 
  • Furthermore, this project will contribute to a better image for the whole meat industry, since a more tender meat product with an exclusive aroma can be produced if the dry aging process is applied correctly.

project partners

OPTIDRYBEEF is a collaboration between 2 associations, Flanders’ FOOD (Belgium) and FEI (Germany). 6 Research and Technology Organisations, all of which have great experience in food science and technology, and meat in particular, will perform the scientific work (UGent, KULeuven, ILVO (Belgium) and DIL (Germany)). A strong industrial leadership will be reflected by the inclusion of 18 companies (12 SMEs) within the UC both from Germany and Belgium.

Flanders' FOOD and FEI (Research Association of the German Food Industry) manage and coordinate the project. The scientific research will be conducted by different research groups:


The German Institute of Food Technologies (Deutsches Institut für Lebensmitteltechnik e. V. – DIL) has been working as an industrial and research institute for product and process development in food production since its foundation in 1983. It is supported by more than 160 members from the fields of food and compound feeds production, mechanical engineering, metrology and process engineering. It has a staff of more than 170 members who are dedicated to linking science and practice in order to support SMEs in the development of innovative ideas for a successful future.


Ghent University, Laboratory of Animal Nutrition and Animal Product Quality (Lanupro)

The Laboratory of Animal Nutrition and Animal Product Quality (Lanupro) has extensive experience in measuring and assessing the quality of fresh meat (composition, sensory and technological properties, physicochemical shelf life and nutritional value) and the influence of biochemical and zootechnical factors. With regard to beef, Lanupro has participated in the past in several national and international projects concerning the influence of the animal type, feeding and slaughter technology on meat quality (e.g. the influence of the dikbilfenotype in the Belgian Blue breed on the tenderness, eating quality, fatty acid composition, color and color stability).


KU Leuven - Research for Technology and Quality of Animal Products (KUL–Meat)

The research activities of KUL – MEAT (KU Leuven Technology Campus Ghent) focus on meat, especially processed meat. The lab includes a pilot plant where various types of meat products can be prepared under strictly controlled conditions in accordance with the industrial standard. The laboratory is fully equipped for the analysis of meat and meat products, e.g. microbiology, and (bio) chemical, physical, micro- and macroscopic (quality) aspects of meat. The research group is part of LFoRCe (Leuven Food Science and Nutrition Research Centre). Within the framework of the VIS-TD project “New practices and technologies for innovations in the meat and meat processing industry”, the group acted as the Flemish Advisory Centre on Meat (VLAV).


Ghent University, Department of Veterinary Public Health and Food Safety (UGent-V&V)

Prof. De Zutter has extensive experience in the epidemiological investigation with a focus on foodborne pathogens through the production of fresh meat. His laboratory is affiliated to the Department of Veterinary Public Health and Food Safety of the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine of the University of Ghent. The laboratory has great experience in evaluation of methods to quantify and isolate foodborne pathogens.


KU Leuven - Research Unit Molecular Odor Chemistry (KUL-Aroma)

The research unit Molecular Odor Chemistry (KU Leuven Technology Campus Ghent), specializes in analytical chemistry of volatile organic compounds in both food as non-food matrices. Additionally, infrastructure is available to conduct sensory panel test in scientific correct circumstances. 6 taste booths are available fitted with an air extraction system, temperature-controlled and special lighting. The laboratory is well equipped for the planned evaluation of the volatile aroma components with a wide range of operational analytical techniques: gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS) for the analysis of extracts, gas chromatographs equipped with thermal-desorption (TDU) and Cooled Injection System (CIS), static headspace (S-HS) and solid phase micro-extraction (SPME), gas chromatography-olfactometry or GC-sniffing and mass spectrometry-based electronic nose (nose-MS) for the rapid characterization of aroma.


Institute for Agriculture and Fisheries Research, Technology and Food Unit (ILVO T&V)

The Technology and Food (T&V) Unit of ILVO has gathered extensive expertise, contacts and equipment for the development of innovations in the food industry during the past decade. All devices for the production of meat products are present in the Food Pilot, an initiative of ILVO and Flanders’ FOOD: a maturation chamber for drying, packaging machinery and all other processing equipment necessary. Besides these activities, research has been conducted for many years in the field of microbiological and chemical safety. Thereby, expertise in the area of analysis and advice on the cleaning and disinfection of food processing plants and the formation of biofilms in processing equipment has been gathered. It is possible to determine and identify mycotoxins with a high resolution mass spectrometer (HR-MS) and additionally, ILVO-T&V is equipped with a GC-MS and a renewed taste laboratory using a (trained) taste panel.


The project started on June 1st, 2016 and runs until May 31, 2018 (Project duration 2 years), until then participation is possible. Afterwards, the results can be obtained through payment.

OPTIDRYBEEF is a CORNET project, including Belgium and German research institutes and associations which are involved in managing, executing the project and performing additional research.

CORNET is a network of ministries and funding agencies that combine their existing funding schemes to increase competitiveness of Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs). In this way CORNET supports new funding organisations worldwide to introduce pilot actions and schemes for pre-competitive Collective Research.

Participation in a CORNET project allows SMEs, SME associations or groups and research organisations to build an international network and benefit from know-how and resources that might not be available in their country or region. CORNET features high success rates and short time to contract. The CORNET partners support applicants in finding the right partners for their pre-competitive Collective Research projects.

For more information, please contact one of the project managers of OPTIDRYBEEF: