Consumers key to new meat eating quality grading system for Wales

Dr Pip Nicholas Davies, BeefQ Project lead at IBERS Aberystwyth University addresses the audience at the taster event at the Royal Welsh Show.

Dr Pip Nicholas Davies, BeefQ Project lead at IBERS Aberystwyth University addresses the audience at the taster event at the Royal Welsh Show.

19 August 2019

1200 people are being invited to take part in consumer taste panels in 20 events across Wales and England as part of a major project designed to ensure the best possible eating quality for Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) Welsh Beef.

The BeefQ project, led by the Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences (IBERS) at Aberystwyth University in collaboration with industry partners, is conducting the research in order to implement an eating quality assessment system in Wales to promote the eating quality and value of Welsh Beef.

Consumer research, as well as the Welsh Beef Sector Review of 2014, identified eating quality as a key factor in purchasing decisions, with shoppers willing to pay higher prices for better quality beef.

The project is supported by the Welsh Government Rural Communities – Rural Development Programme 2014-2020 which is funded by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development and the Welsh Government.

Its aim is to develop a meat eating quality grading system for Wales.

Key to this is translating the data collected from visually grading Welsh beef carcases for eating quality during processing into an eating quality experience for consumers.

Dr Pip Nicholas Davies who is leading the BeefQ project at IBERS said: “A range of carcases are graded by a trained eating quality grader in the processing plant, then samples from a range of different carcase types, cuts and hanging methods are presented to consumers to taste and evaluate under controlled conditions. These tasting events last one hour and consumers are presented with seven samples of cooked meat and asked to score them according to “taste, tenderness and juiciness.”

This information is then used to build an eating quality evaluation system for Wales. 

As a preview to these events which will be conducted in collaboration with Further Education Colleges and Aberystwyth University in October 2019 and February 2020, a demonstration taste panel and accompanying presentation by Dr Rod Polkinghorne took place at this year’s Royal Welsh Show in Llanelwedd.

Dr Polkinghorne, one of the research partners in BeefQ, has been instrumental in developing the model that sits behind the Australian system and now works globally developing the Australian model for application in other countries.

At the event, Dr Polkinghorne described how the consumer taste panels were central to the development of a beef eating quality evaluation system for Wales.

He said: “Consumers are the drivers of value through the beef supply chain and their willingness to pay is influenced by the consistency of their beef eating quality experiences and perceived value for money. It makes sense then that we use consumers as the tools for assessing meat eating quality”.

The 40 participants at the event were served three samples of grilled beef and were asked to complete a questionnaire relating to their eating experience of each sample and their willingness to pay for a range of beef eating quality experiences.

Following the taste panel, Dr Polkinghorne shared insights into how a farm to fork meat eating quality grading system could be implemented in Wales, based on his experiences with the Meat Standards Australia system. 

In his summing up, Dr Polkinghorne said: “As an industry we have to catch up to, and align with, our only source of revenue, the consumer.”

A summary of the demonstration taste panel and the consumer results will be available in the BeefQ Newsletter to be released in August 2019.