Now that we are in the midst of the holiday season, many of us will experience taste bud overload as we enjoy family gatherings and celebrations. While tasty food is certainly something to enjoy, there are times when taste is put to use for more than just our own satisfaction.
AURI’s meat laboratory in Marshall is equipped to conducts taste panels for several reasons. Often it involves a client who is interested in seeing if their meat product is comparable to or better than something already in the marketplace. The client’s product could have had some value-added interventions or special process applied to differentiate it from items already available.
Two main types of panels can be conducted—trained and consumer. In a trained panel, participants are recruited, then trained on specific attributes. The scales used for each attribute are very specific. An example of when a trained panel could be conducted could include a scenario where animals were fed varying levels of a feed additive such as fish oil. Panelists can help determine a threshold for the inclusion of that additive—how much is too much and when can it be detected.
There is no training needed for consumer panels. Recruited panelists are asked their preferences or opinions, or likes and dislikes of the product. A consumer panel is most often used after a product has been developed and we want to know if it is acceptable to the consuming public. This process helps determine if the public will like the product and if it is comparable or better than the control product.
All meat taste panels conducted at AURI are based on guidelines set by the American Meat Science Association. Panelists are seated in a secluded panel booth under red lights to prevent bias due to color variability of the samples. Panelists receive a questionnaire and a ballot and are instructed on the purpose of the panel. They are provided with water and unsalted saltine crackers to cleanse their palate between samples. Samples are served in a predetermined order to prevent potential sensory biases due to serving order. Unless the purpose of the panel is to evaluate different cookery methods or different cooked end-
point temperatures, all of the samples are cooked the same way and to the same exact end-point temperature.
Once the sampling has begun, panelists let their taste buds do the talking as they provide valuable information for the development or refinement of value-added meat products.
For more information on taste panels or other AURI meat lab capabilities, please call (507) 537-7440.