Our long-term goal is to develop processing solutions to preserve and enhance the flavor of lean beef. In this seed grant, our overall objective is to determine the effects of wet aging on water-soluble flavor compounds (WSFC), beef flavor characteristics, and consumer's WTP. Our central hypothesis is that wet aging, although increasing tenderness, alters WSFC in a direction that is detrimental to beef flavor and WTP. We will test our hypothesis through two specific objectives:Specific Objective #1: To identify changes in WSFC in lean beef during wet aging. Our working hypothesis is that wet aging will increase the influx of free amino acids and total peptides and the degradation of 5'-ribonucleotides.Specific Objective #2: To determine concentrations of WSFC in cooked beef and evaluate descriptive flavors and flavor acceptability and estimate consumer WTP. Our working hypothesis is that wet aging increases total peptides, hypoxanthine, and bitterness and decreases 5-ribonucleotides and umami, thereby decreasing flavor acceptability and WTP for lean beef.