The latest US National Beef Tenderness Survey has identified significant increases in consumer perceptions of palatability over the past 10 years.
The survey, published in the February edition of the Journal of Animal Science, collected data on the tenderness, flavour and juiciness of beef cuts sold across the United States.
Their goals were to track whether beef quality and consumer preferences have changed over time.
They compared their results with similar surveys published in 1991, 2000 and 2007.
“Real or perceived changes in beef production after the last survey require an update to this benchmark to answer the key questions about how the beef of today is meeting the needs of consumers,” wrote the authors of the latest survey.
Significant findings of the new survey:
- Prime rib eye steaks purchased from food service establishments received the best ratings for tenderness and juiciness.
- Ungraded rib eye steaks received the lowest scores for tenderness.
- Pricey bone-in rib eye and boneless strip loin steaks spent more time in storage. The researchers speculate that the economic downturn may have reduced demand for these steaks.
- 64 percent of retail steaks were labeled with a packer/processor or store branding. This is an increase from 47 percent of steaks branded in 2007. Consumers may prefer branded products because branding implies consistent cattle breed, management and harvest techniques.
- Top blade steaks had some of the best tenderness scores in decades. The challenge with this steak is that a seam of tough connective tissue must be removed before selling or cooking it.
- Overall, tenderness scores were similar to those in the 2007 survey. The researchers speculate that there may be a “possible plateau of beef tenderness.”
Of course, consumers play a role in beef tenderness. Certain cuts lack the fat and marbling that keeps them tender after grilling. The researchers recommend future studies to determine the best cooking methods to maximize tenderness in different cuts of beef.
The survey included work from researchers at Texas A&M University, Texas Tech University, University of Florida, Cal Poly, Oklahoma State University, University of Missouri, North Dakota State University, Pennsylvania State University and the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association.
To see the survey of to the Journal of Animal Science here