A hand-held Raman sensor head was developed for the in-situ characterization of meat quality. As light source, a microsystem based external cavity diode laser module (ECDL) emitting at 671 nm was integrated in the sensor head and attached to a miniaturized optical bench which contains lens optics for excitation and signal collection as well as a Raman filter stage for Rayleigh rejection. The signal is transported with an optical fiber to the detection unit which was in the initial phase a laboratory spectrometer with CCD detector. All elements of the ECDL are aligned on a micro optical bench with 13 x 4 mm2 footprint. The wavelength stability is provided by a reflection Bragg grating and the laser has an optical power of up to 200 mW. However, for the Raman measurements of meat only 35 mW are needed to obtain Raman spectra within 1 - 5 seconds. Short measuring times are essential for the hand-held device. The laser and the sensor head are characterized in terms of stability and performance for in-situ Raman investigations. The function is demonstrated in a series of measurements with raw and packaged pork meat as samples. The suitability of the Raman sensor head for the quality control of meat and other products will be discussed.© (2009) COPYRIGHT SPIE--The International Society for Optical Engineering. Downloading of the abstract is permitted for personal use only.