Not only is it necessary for a side of beef to be hung in order to mature to dry aged, but for all cuts of meat. For the animal to be consumed after slaughter, it needs proper ripening. In that process, organic chemical forces make the meat edible.
After Slaughter it Becomes Tough
After slaughter, various processes occur once oxygen is no longer available to the meat. Glycogen and glucose in the anaerobic environment are degraded to lactate (lactic acid). This leads to a hardening of the fibrilla: the muscle tissue and as a result the meat becomes tough and firm. In the case of cattle, this phenomenon, which is also known as rigor mortis, develops within 10-24 hour; in pigs, in 4-18 hours and in chickens, in 2-4 hours. Only after this time does enzymatic meat maturation begin.
Enzymes Make the Meat Tender
The enzymatic meat ripening process can take between 1 to 8 days depending on the species. The lactic acid produced during anaerobic glycogenolysis is important for the success of maturation. The structure of the muscle fibers is resolved by the action of protein-cleaving enzymes: the proteases. The resulting lactic acid loosens the cell bandage so that cellular proteolytic enzymes can act on the muscle tissue and can break the hardened muscle gland. This makes the meat tender again. For further improvement of the consistency, vegetable proteases, such as papain, an enzyme-cleaving enzyme of the papaya fruit, are often used in meat maturing. The meat is treated with papain before hanging.
The Dry Aging of beef may take 3-8 weeks to develop the desired nutty and buttery flavors which simply cannot develop with shorter maturation times. Through oxidation and evaporation of water during Dry Aging, a crust will form and the enzymes and proteins can develop the signature flavors and aromas of dry-aged meat, beneath the crust.
In the wet-aging process, the product is under vacuum for a shorter period of time and lactic acid dominates the flavor profile. In Dry Aging, lactic acid can mature to yield a spicy flavor and naturally occurring glutamate develops to enhance the flavor of the meat and give it a greater depth of meaty, umami flavor. There is also the hugley added benefit of longer ripening periods that dramatically improves tenderness by way of enzymatic activity.