Consumers key to new meat eating quality grading system

Shoppers are willing to pay higher prices for better quality beef, research shows
Shoppers are willing to pay higher prices for better quality beef, research shows

Around 1,200 people are being invited to take part in a consumer taste event to ensure the public are eating quality Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) Welsh Beef.

The BeefQ project is designed 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 EU and 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 is leading the BeefQ project at the Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences (IBERS) at Aberystwyth University.

She said the 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'.

“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,” she said.

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

Dr Rod Polkinghorne, one of the research partners in BeefQ, said it makes sense then that consumers are used as the tools for assessing meat eating quality.

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.”

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.

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