The latest beef tenderness survey has just been released and it is generally positive for the industry.
Beef checkoff funding has been used 20 years now to track beef tenderness. The first benchmarking survey was conducted in 1990 and it focused on the retail meat case.
In more recent surveys, foodservice cuts were added and a consumer sensory panel was substituted for previously used trained sensory panels because the consumer's perception of tenderness is the ultimate determinant of a cut's success, researchers say.
"Beef quality, when you think about it, means a lot of things to a lot of people, but to a consumer, quality has everything to do with consistency, flavor, tenderness and overall taste," says Molly McAdams, chair of the checkoff's Joint Product Enhancement Committee.
The 1999 survey revealed a 20% increase in tenderness as compared to 1990. The increased tenderness noted from 1990 to 1999, to a large extent, is attributable to the checkoff-funded science which has increased the industry's understanding of beef palatability.
From 1990 to 1999 researchers said the improvements came from these things:
* fewer no-roll steaks in the retail supply chain.
* more steaks grading Choice or Prime.
* longer, more gradual chilling procedures which reduce muscle shortening and decrease toughness.
* Longer aging periods.
Results of the 2005-06 checkoff survey showed an 18% overall increase in tenderness compared with 1999. When results of the 2005-2006 survey showed further increases, researchers said many of the same factors contributed, plus the increase in branded beef programs encouraged wholesalers and retailers to really focus on the science of meat quality.
Authors at that time also suggested that efforts still were needed to emphasize appropriate cooking methods for the variety of available retail cuts.
The 2010-11 survey was the fourth in the series to quantify the current status of tenderness compared with previous surveys.
The verdict was that most steaks evaluated in the 2010-11 survey were considered tender and similar to steaks evaluated in 2005-06.
In this latest survey, the authors noted 64% of retail cuts were labeled with a store brand. That's still higher than the 47% level noted in the 2005-2006 survey.
The least tender cuts continue to be from the round, suggesting the need for improved aging practices and increased consumer education focused on proper preparation and cooking to enhance consumer satisfaction.
In 1999 and in 2005-2006 cuts from the round continued to be mentioned as a problem with tenderness in the overall scheme of things.
The authors also noted concern that some retail outlets seemed to be pushing steaks out the door in less than the industry recommended minimum of 14 days, perhaps a result of short supply and sales featuring.
"Information from the National Beef Tenderness Survey has been very important in setting priorities for additional research that needs to be conducted in product enhancement, to look at where there are gaps in information or lack of information in certain areas," says Jeff Savell, professor of animal science at Texas A&M University.
To read the executive summary of this report go to: http://www.beefresearch.org/CMDocs/BeefResearch/Tenderness_survey_web2010.pdf