Newsletters

Ovine Observer

American, Chinese and Australian consumers are on the same page when scoring lamb eating quality

Rachel O’Reilly, Murdoch University, WA
Author correspondence:
R.OReilly@murdoch.edu.au

Introduction

Untrained consumers are commonly used to measure the eating quality (EQ) of lamb and sheepmeat. Consumer tasting sessions of Australian lamb meat following Meats Standards Australia (MSA) protocols are undertaken domestically and overseas to understand consumer preferences in different markets and to determine the EQ of meat produced from different animals. To confidently use the EQ scores given to lamb meat by untrained consumers, it is important to understand whether consumer demographic factors such as appreciation of lamb meat or preferred cooking doneness differ substantially between countries and influence consumer lamb EQ scores.

Previous work using Meat Standards Australia (MSA) protocols has shown that consumers with a greater appreciation of meat will score EQ more favourably compared to those indifferent to red meat. This was the case for both sheep meat and beef, although increases were small and not consistent in all countries assessed (Australia, France, Northern Ireland, Poland). In addition, consumers who prefer a higher degree of cooking doneness tend to score EQ higher than those with a preference for medium doneness (Australia, Northern Ireland, and Ireland). In contrast, untrained consumer testing of grilled Australian beef in Korea demonstrated that Korean consumer EQ scores were not influenced by red meat consumption preferences.

China and America are important export markets for Australian lamb and have therefore been targeted for tasting sessions to understand the consumers within these markets. However, the influence of Chinese and American consumer demographics on their EQ scores of lamb is unknown. Given the similarities between Chinese and Korean traditional cuisines, it is likely that Chinese consumer EQ scores may be less responsive to consumer meat appreciation or cooking doneness preferences compared to American and Australian consumers.

General aims

This study aims to assess how consumer preferences for meat appreciation and cooking doneness in Chinese, American and Australian consumers influence their EQ scoring of Australian lamb meat. We hypothesise that Chinese consumers’ EQ scores will be less responsive to differences in consumer preferences than American or Australian consumers.

decorative
Consumer tasting session in America
decorative
Consumer tasting session in China

Results

Contrary to expectations, the effect of consumer preferences for lamb appreciation and cooking doneness on lamb EQ scores did not differ between China, Australia and the USA.

The frequency of lamb consumption differed between the three countries, with Australians and Chinese commonly consuming lamb weekly to monthly while American consumers rarely consumed lamb (Figure 3).

However, the impact of lamb consumption frequency on EQ scores did not differ between countries (P > 0.05).

decorative
Grilling lamb meat samples
decorative
Figure 3 Frequency of lamb consumption of untrained consumers in Australia, China and the USA

The importance of lamb in the diet of consumers also differed between countries, with the majority of Australians valuing lamb as an important part of their diet, while the majority of Chinese were indifferent to lamb in their diet and Americans rarely to never eat lamb (Figure 4). However, the impact of consumer lamb appreciation on EQ scores did not differ between the countries.

decorative
Figure 4  The importance of lamb in the diet of untrained consumers in Australia, China and the USA

High consumer appreciation of lamb in the diet improved flavour scores by 2.9 to 3.9 units compared with scores from consumers who rarely or never eat lamb, respectively (P < 0.05). However, contrary to expectations high consumer appreciation of lamb did not improve scores for tenderness, juiciness or overall liking (P > 0.05).

decorative
Figure 5  Degree of lamb cooking doneness preferred by untrained consumers in Australia, China and the USA 

Consumer preference for cooking doneness differed between countries, with Australian and Americans preferring medium rare to medium well done while Chinese consumers almost all preferred well done lamb meat (Figure 5). However, the impact of consumer preference for cooking doneness on EQ scores did not differ between counties; influencing the average juiciness scores (P<0.05), but not influencing consumer scores for tenderness, flavour or overall liking.

In line with previous research, consumers who preferred their meat cooked medium-rare scored samples 2.6 and 3.4 units lower on average than those preferring medium-well or well-done lamb meat.

Discussion

Consumer preferences for lamb meat did differ substantially between Australian, Chinese and American consumers, however this had little or no impact on EQ scores which did not differ between countries.

Lamb meat appreciation influenced flavour scores and preference for doneness influenced juiciness scores, however consumer preferences did not consistently influence the different EQ traits and therefore overall have negligible impact on lamb EQ scoring.

These results demonstrate that balancing for consumer demographics is not necessary in studies using MSA protocols, as meat consumption preferences have minimal impact on eating quality scores of lamb for American, Chinese and Australian consumers.