The possibility that mitochondria are involved in cellular dysfunction is particularly high in situations associated with increases in free radical activity, like hypoxia or ischemia; therefore its potential role in the muscle post-mortem metabolism is reviewed. In the dying muscle, different routes of cell death catabolism (apoptosis, autophagy) may occur having great influence on the process of conversion of muscle into meat. Mitochondria are the first and also one of the main organelles affected by post-mortem changes; therefore they are decisive in the subsequent cellular responses influencing the pathway to cell demise and thus, the final meat quality. Depending on the cell death programme followed by muscle cells after exsanguination, diverse proteases would be activated to a different extent, which is also reviewed in order to understand how they affect meat tenderization. This review also summarizes recent patents relating cell death processes and meat tenderness. Further research is encouraged as there is still a need of knowledge on cell death post-mortem processes to increase our understanding of the conversion of muscle into meat.