Silver Fern Farms crack taste barrier with red meat eating quality system

Specially trained EQ Master Graders, use a torch – always used in the left hand, at the same angle – to assess fat and meat colour, amongst other attributes. Photo: Sciencelens.
Specially trained EQ Master Graders, use a torch – always used in the left hand, at the same angle – to assess fat and meat colour, amongst other attributes. Photo: Sciencelens.

13,700 taste testers have made history in the largest science investigation into red meat eating quality in New Zealand.

The research has been used by Silver Fern Farms to create a new eating quality grading system for New Zealand beef. The system is the first of its kind which uses a scientific process to determine taste preferences to guarantee consumers with premium quality red meat.

Silver Fern Farms chief executive Keith Cooper said the co-operative funded the research as part of the FarmIQ Primary Growth Partnership programme with Government. The research was carried out by a team of 38 scientists from Texas Tech University in the US and Otago University’s Department of Food Sciences.

“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,” says Cooper.

“Silver Fern Farms has a strategy which starts with consumers – we start at the plate to determine what consumers want and work back to the pasture so we can deliver on that promise. The Silver Fern Farms Eating Quality (EQ) System certainly enables us to do that.

“This innovation fits with the Government Business Growth Agenda goal of building a more competitive and productive economy.”

Consumer taste panels of 20 people have been running nearly every week since early in the year in 17 cities across New Zealand and the USA.

Keith Cooper, chief executive Silver Fern Farms.

“Going to this depth has 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.”

Cooper says the Eating Quality System adds considerable weight to the co-operative’s integrated value chain model which offers 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 Eating Quality System for beef and they were 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.”

He says farmers supplying prime beef to the co-operative will receive new grading reports indicating how their beef rates across a set of eating quality criteria. Detailed reports which integrate into the FarmIQ system are also being developed.

“Feedback reports will go to all farmers supplying prime beef from November. It will help them make management decisions around their stock so they can improve the quality of their livestock and maximise their financial returns.”

Farmers under various Backbone Programme Contracts will be eligible to receive a premium for meeting the EQ Master Grade Standards, in a move to reward contracted farmers and encourage other farmers to join the co-operative.

“It’s an investment farmer shareholders have made and it’s essential they get first advantage out of the premiums we’ll be able to get from the market. We are in an industry which needs to innovate and invest in creating value. We see this as an investment which will set us up very well for the future.”

[Silver Fern Farms release]



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