Friday, July 8, 2022

Reputation at steak

There is some irony in an ag journo ending up at a beef tasting session for a mysterious meat company. Recently I was roped in to help make up the numbers of group involved in a taste study run by Otago University. There seemed to be three groups so about 60 took part. My group was there as part of a fundraising effort and the university was paying $20/head. The organisers wouldn’t let on who the tasting was for but after some prodding and process of elimination all fingers pointed to it being a meat company.

So who was the mysterious meat company?

Given it was held in Dunedin, a good guess was Silver Fern Farms(SFF).

A quick call the following day to SFF’s Grant Howie confirmed it was his company.

He said the university was carrying out taste testing for different cuts of beef cooked various ways and we were the roast session.

There are also stir fry and steak sessions – bummer.

Howie said a Texas university was also doing a taste study and results were expected in about a month.

The Dunedin taste study needed people aged 18-72 who eat meat.

Before the tasting started we had to fill out a form (to the best of our ability) asking for name and contact details, how often we eat pork, chicken, lamb and beef and how we eat the four meats – roasts, steaks, stir fry, chops or mince?

There were also questions about the level of cooking we prefer. Was it medium, medium-well done or well-done.

They also wanted to know how many people live in the household, the income range and my ethnic group and education qualifications.

The tasting form had a scale ranging from not juicy and not tender to very tender, very juicy. For flavour and overall liking the range was dislike extremely to like extremely.

The final page of the questionnaire asked how much we would pay for beef ranging from unsatisfactory to premium quality. The options ranged from nothing to $80/kg in multiples of $10/kg.

Between each sample, which was about 6cm in diameter, we cleansed the palate with a cracker and water or juice. The toothpick was handy too.

I wonder what they would have done if I had said halfway through the tasting that I was full?

So what did I learn? Not a lot.

We tasted six samples in about 40 minutes. Only one scored highly in tenderness and juiciness. The rest seemed average to poor.

I take my hat off to judges in competitions like the Steak of Origin. How do they find a winner from 450 entries? Is it best to be first or last on the tongue as anything in the middle to me would be just a blur.

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