By Holly Webb, ASAS/ASAP communications intern
A ‘Growth, Development, Meat Biology and Meat Science Symposium’, was recently hosted by the American Society of Animal Science at its 2016 Midwest Meeting in Des Moines, Iowa. Dr. Dale Woerner presented recent research from Colorado State University and The Ohio State University on “Differentiating lamb flavour”.
Dr. Woerner explored the preferences and complaints associated with lamb quality in the United States from the most recent National Lamb Quality Audit (NLQA).
The demand for lamb in the U.S. has reduced over the past 30 years with protein having a reputation for being high end. For improved demand, researchers aimed to identify changes relevant to lamb markets in the U.S. to emphasise quality strengths and correct shortcomings.
Researchers interviewed retail and food service respondents over the telephone or in a face-to-face arrangement. Respondents were asked to define quality in structured, open-ended questions.
When asked to define ‘lamb’, the majority of respondents (32%) described the protein as ‘young sheep’. This was followed by 25% of respondents defining lamb as a ‘red meat alternative’.
The interviews determined eating satisfaction was the most important quality attribute to consumer. Eating satisfaction was most commonly identified as lamb flavour and/or taste. The flavour of U.S. lamb was overall perceived as milder, and more approachable flavour for U.S. consumers than imported lamb.
For willingness to pay analyses, lamb origin and sheep raising practices were most commonly non-negotiable for requirement purchases. Australian origin of lamb was ranked 8/18 when origin was defined as a quality attribute.
Consumers also identified they would pay a premium for lamb with guaranteed eating satisfaction. The greatest dollar value premium was offered if the quality of the product could be assured.
Loins chops purchased in the U.S. originating from the U.S., Australia and New Zealand were also analysed as part of the NLQA. Overall, the study found U.S. lamb loin chops had the most muscle and Australian loin chops were the trimmest products available.
Loin and rib chops originating from Australia, New Zealand and the U.S. were all well below a threshold determined as “very tender”. However, Australian and New Zealand loin and rib chops were more tender than lamb originating from the U.S.
A strategic emphasis on quality attributes identified in the NLQA aims to ensure eating satisfaction and lamb flavour is optimized for American lamb. The NLQA aims to aid in the development of technologies to differentiate lamb flavour and identify the opportunity to utilise technologies in the production process, with the final capability of segregating lamb into unique flavour groups, such as “mild, medium or bold”.