Sainsbury’s unveils beef eating quality project

Sainsbury’s has unveiled a major project investigating beef eating quality, following trials at one of its beef development farms. The project was developed to tighten up the consistency of beef eating quality and discover what measure produce tenderness, flavour and good quality.

The retailer says it is the first time that a major retailer has conducted trials of this kind.

The project was unveiled by beef development group farmer Charlie Hart of Weston Farm in Cornwall, who addressed delegates at the Sainsbury’s Farming conference in Stoneleigh on Friday (7 December).

Hart said: “There’s such a variation to beef across the industry that determines what it tastes like... it is time we identified the facts that matter.”

He admitted that beef development has been lagging behind other species, and that it was time that the factor determining good eating quality were identified, adding: “We have to sort out the consistency issues, whether we analyse the farming system, the processing and right through the supply chain - it’s about ensuring that we provide an animal the customer with a consistent product in terms of size, fat content, quality and therefore ultimately eating quality. So we’ve started with breeds, feed, gender and looking at the whole picture.

The project, which involved on-farm trials of 300 Angus, natives and Limousine cattle, took place from December 2011 - May 2012, with the meat being tested and analysed by the team at Bristol University research institute. These included sheer tests, intermuscular fat, marbling and colour test, as well as with wide consumer and industry taste testing. Although results are expected in February, Hart said that the initial indications from Bristol University are said to show “real potential” that may lead to industry-changing practises.

Hart commended Sainsbury’s for its willingness to look at the issue transparently, breaking down the cost of production, and the variable costs, as well as looking at the different breeds to meet a level playing field for price, He said that the research was likely to change the way that farmers are, potentially leading to a price premium for animal that could produce a consistent superior eating quality.

The retailer also updated the conference on work undertaken by its Pork Development group, specifically its commercial trial of the free-farrowing pig system, the development of its new veal supply chain out of the existing dairy group, and the work of the chicken development group in improving flock health and efficiency. 


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