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The MACSYS project started 1 January 2014. The expected outcomes of MACSYS were identified and are presented below.





Preparation, handling, documentation and characterization of standard samples




New antibodies and histochemical staining techniques




Common EU histochemical method to assess muscle structure




Automated histological image analysis software




Fast-track method for wide at-line industrial application 


Preparation, handling, documentation and characterization of standard samples

Reference samples were prepared by Robert Damkjær Ltd and Aarhus University, Denmark using the following procedure:

60 kg of freshly produced deboned thigh muscles was collected from a local Danish Poultry Slaughterhouse and brought to the experimental slaughter house at University of Aarhus, Department of Food Science, Denmark. Immediately upon arrival remains of bones and visible cartilage was removed manually. The batch was then divided in 2. One of the batches was emulsified, the other was coarsely chopped in a mincer.

 11 different mixtures were then produced from 100% emulsified and 0% coarsely chopped to 0% emulsified to 100% coarsely chopped in intervals of 10%. Similar procedures and mixtures were produced from pure breast meat where the inner fillets were removed.

These samples were frozen and transported frozen to all relevant partners for further analysis. 

Analysis of muscle structure degradation using histochemical and immunohistochemical staining methods were performed by:

  • Aarhus University, Denmark
  • Leatherhead Food Research, UK
  • Max Rubner-Institute, Germany

Biochemical analysis for fat, protein and moisture content were performed by:

  • Leatherhead Food Research, UK
  • Spectroscopic analyses were performed by:
  • University of Copenhagen, Denmark

A database system was launched on the MACSYS intranet with the purpose to ease the exchange of results and observations between partners internally in MACSYS.

New antibodies and histochemical staining techniques

Within Europe more methods are available that allows for quantitative or semiquantitative (graded scales) assessment of the degradation of muscle structure, although none of these have gained a wider acceptance. These methods are:

  • Two German histochemical methods, one based on toluidine blue and another based on haematoxylin-eosin staining’s - developed and conducted at the Max Rubner Institute
  • One English method also based on a toluidine blue stain but with a higher concentration of the haematoxylin-eosin dye -  developed and conducted at the Leatherhead Food Research
  • One Danish method based on staining’s with monoclonal antibodies for myosin and laminin for visualization of muscle tissue and level of degradation of muscle structure respectively - developed at the University of Aarhus.

The German and the English methods are both largely subjective, whereas the Danish method is objective and fully automated.

In MACSYS these methods are tested for capacity and accuracy to quantify the level of muscle structure degradation. The results are used in collaboration with the SME SoftCrits to develop a fully automated image analysis system, which eventually will reduce or completely eliminate any subjective element of the histochemical analysis.

The analyses were performed on mixtures of emulsified and coarsely minced breast meat. A total of 11 different mixtures were used ranging from 100% emulsified and 0% coarsely chopped to 0% emulsified to 100% coarsely chopped in intervals of 10%. A similar series of mixtures were produced with thigh meat.

Based on findings in both muscles it was concluded that the staining method using an antibody for laminin displayed an overall better accuracy in comparison to the other methods. In addition this method is a fully automated analysis procedure, it was decided that this staining method is the one with the highest degree of objectivity and was for those reasons considered the better of the four.




This method will comply with any legislation, where level of degradation of muscle structure is considered of prime importance, as is the case for the use of mechanically separated meat.

Our present results shows that a method to quantify level of degradation of muscle structure is now available, which is the prerequisite for “quality” differentiation based on level of degradation of mechanically separated meat. 

Relevant publications:

Branscheid, W.A., Bauer, A. and Troeger, K. (2011). Modification of muscle structure in poultry meat caused by different meat recovery systems. Fleischwirtschaft International, 6, pp 64-66

Bader, D., Masaki, T., and Fischman, D.A. (1982). Immunochemical analysis of myosin heavy chain during avian myogenesis in vivo and in vitro. J. Cell Biol. 95, 763-770

Bayne, E.K., Anderson, M.J., and Fambrough, D.M. (1984). Extracellular matrix organi-zation in developing muscle: correlation with acetylcholine receptor aggregates. J. Cell Biol. 99, 1486-1501

MACSYS publications

Common EU histochemical method to assess muscle structure

The MACSYS partners have initiated preparation of a CEN workshop, in order to reach a common agreement on an EU histochemical method to assess muscle structure degradation of mechanically separated poultry meat. The aim of the Workshop is to develop a CEN Workshop Agreement (CWA) on the technical requirements and methods to classify objectively the level of degradation of muscle structure in MSM.

A kick-off and 1st meeting “CEN Workshop 83 on Mechanically Separated Poultry Meat (MSM)” was held on the 1st and 2nd of March 2016. The meeting agenda and project plan can be found using this linkhttp://www.cen.eu/news/workshops/Pages/WS-2016-002.aspx

A second workshop meeting was held as a virtual meeting the 13th of April and it will be followed by a 3rdworkshop meeting in Brussels the 26th of May.

Automated histological image analysis software

Based on the results obtained in WP 4 the development of automated histological image analysis software has been initiated by the SME SoftScrits in collaboration with Aarhus University, Leatherhead Food Research and Max Rubner-Institute.

On this video it is possible to explore how the software works. 

The final version of the software is expected autumn 2015.