Meat Color Measurement

The color of meats is one of the main factors consumers use when determining the freshness and quality of the meat in the grocery store or butcher shop. They are looking for a “fresh” color – red for beef, veal and lamb products, pink for pork, and varying colors for chicken. According to the USDA, “Raw poultry can vary from a bluish-white to yellow…and are a direct result of a breed, exercise, age, and/or diet.” If the color is even slightly “off,” consumers will not purchase the meat.


Before the meat product reaches consumers, meat and poultry processors use color to monitor processing and ensure the quality and freshness of the meat. Color measurement is also used to determine the amount of marbling, a key quality component, in red meats. HunterLab specializes in helping meat processors and packagers monitor the color of their products to consistently meet the highest quality standards and to meet the expectations of consumers.

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HunterLab’s innovative products were the first to receive USDA approval for the instrumental evaluation of food color and are used by major food processors and packagers, including ConAgra Foods, Tyson Food, Inc., Swift and Company, Cargill, Smithfield Food and Boars Head. Our MiniScan EZ and other spectrophotometers are used by research facilities in universities worldwide, the USDA and the Canadian Department of Agriculture.



Color measurement for meats provides a standardized measure to determine the freshness and quality of the meat during processing and packaging. In addition, it is used to measure marbling in beef and lamb as an additional quality indicator. Due to the diversity of processed meat products, such as cold cuts, sausage, and fresh, prepared and frozen meats, there is a wide variation of acceptable colors. Color is also used during research and by regulatory agencies to monitor freshness and test processing methods. There is a wide variety of meats that can be color measured including ham, fillet, steak, turkey, hot dogs, and ground beef. The most popular measurement tool is the MiniScan EZ 45/0 LAV, which is accurate, portable and easy to use.

While many of HunterLab’s spectrophotometers are versatile enough to accommodate most applications of color measurement, based on 60+ years of experience and a thorough understanding of our customers? needs and product use, these particular instruments are most suited for this industries application.


ColorFlex EZ (45°/0° Geometry, Reflectance, 400-700 nm)
40% of our customers prefer this instrument because of its compact design and integrated display, so does not require a PC and external software.

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MiniScan EZ 4500L (45°/0° Geometry, Reflectance, 400-700 nm)
10% of our customers select the hand-held MiniScan EZ because it is rugged, lightweight and ergonomically designed and travels anywhere, from the lab to the production line, indoors or outdoors.

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