Evaluation of the contribution of tenderness, juiciness, and flavor to the overall consumer beef eating experience
The objectives of this study were to evaluate the contribution of tenderness, juiciness, and flavor to the overall consumer beef eating experience and to evaluate the risk of overall palatability failure due to the unacceptable level of one or more of these traits. Data from 11 previously conducted studies representing a wide range of treatments and levels of eating quality that included more than 1,500 beef samples and 1,800 consumers were compiled and analyzed for this study. Results of a multivariate regression indicated that tenderness, flavor, and juiciness accounted for 43.4%, 49.4%, and 7.4%, respectively, of overall palatability (P < 0.05; R2 > 0.99). Additionally, the odds of a steak being rated unacceptable overall when tenderness, juiciness, or flavor were rated unacceptable were 2.2 to 1 (69%), 1.9 to 1 (66%), and 3.3 to 1 (77%), respectively. This indicated overall palatability was 7.2, 6.5, and 12.3 times more likely to be rated unacceptable if tenderness, juiciness, or flavor, respectively, was also rated unacceptable. Additionally, the percentage of samples rated acceptable for each palatability trait increased (P < 0.05) as quality grade increased. More than 88% of USDA Prime samples were rated acceptable for each palatability trait, whereas only 74.8-77.3% of USDA Select samples were rated acceptable for each palatability trait. Marbling score accounted for 14-16% of the variation (P < 0.01) in consumer palatability scores for each trait and intramuscular fat percentage accounted for 17-21% of the variation in each trait (P < 0.01). Logistic equation models for the predicted probability of an acceptable rating for each palatability trait based on intramuscular fat percentage accounted for only a minimal amount of variation (P < 0.01; R2 ≤ 0.09). Results of this study indicate the relative contribution of tenderness, juiciness, and flavor to overall beef palatability. They provide evidence that the failure of even a single palatability trait dramatically increases the likelihood of overall palatability failure, indicating that no single palatability trait is most important, as beef palatability is dependent upon the acceptance of all three traits: tenderness, juiciness, and flavor.