University of Otago research fellows Jun Niimi (28) (left)
and Stephanie Then (37) prepare beef for consumer testing.
Photo by Linda Robertson.
University of Otago researchers cooked up more than
27,000 pieces of meat as part of a record-setting investigation
into the quality of red meat's palatability.
The university's food science department fed meat samples to
3960 taste testers as part of the creation of a beef-eating
quality grading system for Silver Fern Farms. Previously,
almost 13,000 more taste testers were fed meat by Texas Tech
University as part of the same study.
University food scientist Pat Silcock said the consumer
trial, which started in March and finished last week, was the
largest carried out by the department.
As part of the trial, the taste testers were asked to rate
the tenderness, juiciness, flavour and their overall
impression of different samples of meat.
The meat was cooked in a grill supplied by Silver Fern Farms,
with each sample cooked under controlled conditions to ''take
the cooking out of the equation''.
''If you understand what the consumer wants you can charge a
premium. So it's a very good way for them to extract value,''
Mr Silcock explained.
The department used people from volunteer groups, sports
bodies, schools and churches, and gave the groups donations.
Silver Fern Farms chief executive Keith Cooper said the
co-operative funded the research as part of the FarmIQ
Primary Growth Partnership programme with the Government.
''We need to be world leaders in red meat if New Zealand is
to do more than simply trade commodities and this
collaborative research and new grading system and our new
range of `Reserve' beef certainly puts us out in front,'' Mr
The research was a ''massive exercise'', with a consumer
trial of 500 people considered large for product development.
Under the grading system farmers supplying beef to the
co-operative would receive new grading reports indicating how
their beef rated across a set of criteria, with those
producing higher quality meat receiving a premium.
''It will help them make management decisions around their
stock so they can improve the quality of their livestock and
maximise their financial returns,'' Mr Cooper said.