Optimizing palatability of retail beef
Meade, Molly Kaye
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Tenderness classified beef and beef produced in a way to maximize palatability is technologically possible in the near term and, if implemented, could have a tremendous impact on the beef industry. This research was undertaken to: (1) characterize in-home consumer evaluations of beef steaks representing various palatability profiles, and (2) evaluate consumer preferences, by segmentation group, of tenderness-classified beef cuts cooked to the consumers' preferred degree of doneness. Phase I of this study involved 240 consumer households with in-home evaluations of four beef cuts (sirloin, loin, shoulder, and round steaks) from five palatability groups (Guaranteed Tender Choice, Guaranteed Tender Select, Source Verified, Marinated, and Control). Numerous confounding interactions between cooking methods, degree of doneness, treatment, and cut of beef existed and final evaluations were heavily dependent on individual preferences. Nonetheless, Phase I results support the utilization of a guaranteed tender beef product to enhance consumers' satisfaction of beef loin, sirloin and top round steaks. Phase II explored differences between consumer segments - defined by beef eating habits - in terms of product preferences in a panel setting. Tenderness classified beef loin and sirloin steaks were presented to 300 consumers who met specific recruitment criteria. Consumers were unable to distinguish differences (P>.05) between guaranteed and intermediate tenderness classified steaks, but found steaks from these treatments to be superior in all palatability attributes (P<.05) to steaks classified as tough. Consumers satisfied with the degree of doneness at which their steak was presented to them for evaluation rated the steaks significantly higher in all palatability measurements than steaks that were unsatisfactory in terms of degree of doneness (either undercooked or overcooked). When responses were analyzed by consumer segmentation group (heavy, medium or light beefeaters), all segments were able to detect differences (P<.05) in steaks from the two tenderness classifications. This study suggests that consumers can discern differences between "tough" and "tender" steaks and that a major factor that determines satisfaction with beef cuts is the ability to have the product presented at their preferred degree of doneness. A tenderness classified beef product, accompanied with detailed cooking instructions, could serve to increase customer satisfaction with fresh beef at retail.