AHDB trials bite test technology

The Agriculture & Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) has conducted early trials with an electronic bite test that could help the meat industry generate up to £7 million (m) more in revenue by turning cuts graded as slower-cook into thin-cut steaks. 

As part of work to increase carcase value, AHDB has used equipment known as a texture analyser to measure the force needed to ‘bite’ through a small sample of meat, placing a kilogram value to measure its tenderness.

Using this science, muscles within the British beef carcase have been tested and found to be suitable for use as quick-cook thin-cut steaks. The human jaw is so sensitive it can detect a change in tenderness of just 0.5kg. Research with UK beef will continue, potentially offering retailers opportunity to label thin-cut steaks from good through to premium, on counters across the country.

Early tests indicate the industry could reap more than £5.2m creating thin-cut steaks from chuck and £2.5m from the leg of mutton cut (LMC).

AHDB Beef & Lamb has also identified thin-cut steaks as a new means to get consumers to eat more beef any day of the week.

Mike Whittemore, head of trade and product development at AHDB, said: “British pride lies in the quality of the beef that’s produced. The ‘bite test’ uses shear force to measure tenderness, meaning that retailers could quantify quality and charge accordingly. It also helps to ensure consistency and boost consumer confidence in beef steak.”

As part of AHDB’s strategy moving forward, a target to increase the value of the English beef category by 3% has been set.

Laura Ryan, AHDB Beef & Lamb strategy director, said: “This is a strategic move, allowing the wider meat industry to gain more value and improve quality from every beef carcase. The research offers processors the opportunity to move cuts needing to go towards lower price options, into the higher-value thin-cut steak category, as and when they need.

“Most importantly, thin cut steaks meet consumer needs. Today’s busy lifestyle means people are changing their eating habits and demand ease in cooking meat of any kind. These steaks can be cooked quickly, forming part of a wide range of dishes for lunch or dinner, from stir-fries, to beef salads, to fajitas and steak sandwiches. The cut also commands a price, which both generates greater value for the producer and retailer, but remains affordable for the customer.”

One of the areas that AHDB hopes to address is the fact that there are currently a number of different names for quick-cook steaks, including minute, sizzle and frying steaks, which can cause confusion for shoppers. Using consumer research, the name, ‘thin cut steak’ has been tested and proven to be the most effective.  

To raise awareness with shoppers, thin-cut steaks will now be promoted with consumer marketing campaigns in 2018, including Great British Beef Week, which runs from Monday 23 April until 30 April. 

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