Eating Quality puts NZ in front
New Zealand’s largest science investigation into the eating quality of red meat involving 13,700 taste testers is about to pay off for processor and exporter Silver Fern Farms (SFF).
The research has been used by the farmer-owned co-operative to create a new eating quality grading system for beef.
SFF chief executive Keith Cooper said the SFF Eating Quality (EQ) system started with consumers and worked back to farm pastures so the co-operative could deliver what they wanted to eat.
‘‘We need to be world leaders in red meat if New Zealand is to do more than simply trade commodities and this collaborative research and new grading system and our new range of ‘ Reserve’ beef certainly puts us out in front.’’
The project fitted with the Government’s business growth goal of building a more competitive and productive economy, he said.
The co-operative funded the research as part of the FarmIQ Primary Growth Partnership programme with the Government. The research was carried out by a team of 38 scientists from Texas Tech University in the United States and food scientists at Otago University.
Consumer taste panels of 20 people have been running nearly every week this year in 17 cities across NZ and the US.
Mr Cooper said research at this level had been a massive logistics exercise.
‘‘We understand that a consumer trial of 500 people is considered large for product development, but the scope of this research has been deliberately wide so we are set up to target high end consumers, with a variety of different cuts of meat and cooking styles around the globe.’’
He said the EQ system fitted with the cooperative’s model offering premium ranges of beef to the high value food service and hotel, restaurant and catering sector.
‘‘Last week we went to Anuga in Germany, Europe’s largest food fair, and showed around 100 of our customers what we’ve managed to do with our EQ system for beef and they we’re really impressed. No one else is doing this in such an aligned manner, or at this scale.
‘‘They’ll get on board and pay a premium because they know their consumers want this consistent quality – especially as they can’t guarantee it from anywhere else.’’
Farmers supplying prime beef to the cooperative will receive new grading reports indicating how their beef rates across a set of eating quality criteria from next month.
Mr Cooper said the reports would help them make management decisions around their stock so they could improve their quality and maximise their financial returns.
Farmers under different contracts would receive a premium for meeting EQ master grade standards in a move to reward contracted farmers and encourage other farmers to join the co-operative.