How the 'Muscle Profiling Project' adds millions to the steak market

01/11/2010 - 00:00
Dr Chris Calkins, professor of Meat Science from the University of Nebraska, USA, explains at an EBLEX conference last week how his 'Muscle Profiling Project', a science-based initiative which examined 5,616 individual muscles from 144 different carcasses, has added real value to the beef industry in the United States and significantly improved eating quality.

Addressing guests from across the meat industry, the world renowned meat scientist said: "There are differences in the US and English markets when it comes to beef, but we do share common interests, namely the consumer's desire for tender, succulent meat that results in little plate waste." "In the US we have conducted studies into what consumers want, and how we can achieve that. In the past butchers used 'hunk and chunk' cutting techniques producing big slabs of meat; tenderness and eating quality were grossly undervalued and much of the carcase ended up as low-value mince or dice cuts. "But by looking at the individual muscles in more depth, we have learnt that we can create steaks from parts of the carcase previously used for mince, that are not only more appealing to consumers but add real value to the carcase, resulting in increased profits and customer satisfaction." The findings in Calkin's research were echoed by Mike Whittemore, retail project manager for EBLEX. Cuts similar to those successfully launched in the US, were recently subjected to consumer testing carried out at Leatherhead Food International. The results of the tests, phase one of three, were presented at the conference. Whittemore said: "EBLEX has always recognised the importance of tenderness and consistency, so much so that our Quality Standard scheme includes standards that positively influence the eating quality of beef and lamb. The additional requirements are designed to minimise the impact of animal age on eating quality, providing a more consistent, tender product. "This latest research clearly demonstrates that seam butchery cutting techniques produce even more appealing steaks, deliver greater consistency in eating quality and can significantly increase profit. "EBLEX has always advocated seam butchery techniques, because of the potential to derive greater value from the carcase. It may cost a little more in terms of preparation, but our consumer research shows that people are willing to pay to get the consistency and tenderness they want. In real terms, that means an additional £6 million2 could be made in retail sales if our methods are adopted." Based on this research, EBLEX began to develop its new 'Quality Premium' range for the retail and foodservice industries. The foodservice range was showcased at the conference. Hugh Judd, foodservice trade manager for EBLEX explained: "We wanted to help the industry to make the most of the carcase and give the consumer the consistency they expect, without adding extra cost along the way. After all, the most expensive meat is the plate waste that goes in the bin. "That's why we created the Quality Premium range to help caterers deliver the best cuts of beef and lamb to customers. Some of the cuts will be familiar, but others such as the Flat Iron Steak from the feather muscle, the seam cut rump steaks - the "Premium" Prime Rump Steak, Bistro and Picanha – the Centre Cut Steak from the thick flank and the Denver Steak from the chuck roll, are new to the market. "All of these steaks deliver a more consistent eating experience because they are seam cut from single muscles. Of course, each steak has its own subtle differences in terms of the taste and flavour but overall will deliver better results than a traditionally cut rump steak." One national catering butcher who is already selling some of the cuts from the Quality Premium range, explained how the cuts have become firm favourites with their customers. Sue Guilfoyle, the company's sales and marketing manager, explained: "Customers naturally want the best product available at the best possible price. These cuts offer the quality and consistency that they are looking for at a price which is commercially viable." The Quality Premium range is supported with a cutting specification brochure, so that suppliers can follow the right techniques. The brochure, along with EBLEX's acclaimed Meat Purchasing Guide, is available to download from the w

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