JSR Tastepanel Brings Consumer Preferences to Breeding
Meat-eating quality is becoming more important. It is a differentiator for processors and retailers to set themselves apart in the market. The JSR taste panel provides data to Topigs Norsvin allowing them to help customers. It shows that we are committed to the final product: Tasty pork.
We use a trained taste panel to assess the meat-eating quality of the pork from its commercial products. Unlike some other panels, our panel is made up of women and men of all ages. This makes the panel comparable with the consumers.
Taste panel members are assessed for their ability to distinguish color, smell, and taste. They are also given tutorials on the correct vocabulary to describe the flavors and textures associated with meat. To keep the quality of the panel high, they are regularly re-assessed.
Standardized way of working valued by retailers
Retailers value the taste panel, as it reflects the consumer experience of their product. Samples for testing are either sourced directly from the slaughter plant or are purchased at a local retailer to replicate the product and experience of a pork consumer when presented with the raw product. Each taste panelist scores the sample for traits such as color (using the Japanese color score scale), intramuscular fat levels (using the USDA guidance cards), and subjective characteristics like smell and overall appearance.
The taste panel works according to standardized procedures for preparation, cooking, tasting, and scoring. Some examples are:
- Sample preparation for cooked pork is standardized to prevent any bias between samples. Flavor transfer from the grill to the piece of meat is avoided by wrapping the sample with foil.
- Each piece of meat is cooked on a moderate heat and cooked from both sides in a clam grill. The meat is kept cooking until the internal temperature reaches 72 degrees Celsius or 162 degrees Fahrenheit and is then allowed to rest.
- Each panelist receives a rectangular piece of meat containing a small proportion of fat and a larger piece of the muscle in proportion to the ratio on the original piece.
- Tasting is done under controlled light and in individual booths to try to minimize any visual bias and heighten the sensation of taste.
- The knife the panelist is given to cut samples has a smooth blade with no serrations so the panelists can also assess how tough the meat is.
The panelists assess the sample on the smell and the most important aspects of the eating experience such as tenderness, juiciness, and flavour of the meat. Finally, the panelists rate the sample based on overall acceptability. The scoring system uses a line scale sitting between two extremes, such as strongly disliked and strongly liked. This method is preferred to prevent bias towards specific numerical scores.
Data collected from the meat lab
JSR also gathers technical meat quality data. Technical data collection assesses meat pH levels, colour score, drip loss, cooking loss, slice shear force, and bite force. Slice shear force and bite force uses meat from a standardized cut one centimeter thick. The data is collected, measured and statistically analysed to determine which traits differ between the samples.
The taste panel’s work and the data gathered in the meat lab allow us to discuss with supply chain partners, including the retail sector, which products best suit their various market sectors. With this knowledge, we can ensure that our animals meet consumer expectations, and provide our partners with insights into our product offering. This approach ensures that the genetic potential of our products is seen all the way to our consumers’ kitchen.