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Impacts on consumer acceptance of beef from interactions between pH, meat colour and packaging

There is a recognised lack of scientific understanding of consumer colour preferences for retail beef products; a lack of scientific detail on ageing and colour stability; consistent observations of a mismatch between meat colour and pH, a desire for an objective instrumental colour measure linked to consumer responses and growing scientific evidence of a detrimental effect on eating quality of MAP packaging.

This trial was designed to improve understanding of the mechanisms involved in the above, their interaction and management approaches to overcome or prevent problems at a plant and retail level.

The design called for striploin, rump and tenderloins aged 5, 12 or 40 days in vacuum packaging to be packed into three retail packaging formats: Overwrap (OWP), Modified Atmosphere (MAP) and Vacuum Skin Pack (VSP). All retail packages were viewed and rated for colour appeal by beef consumers then fabricated into MSA consumer samples and sensory tested using MSA protocols. Further samples were put aside for flavour chemistry evaluation.

Scores from a 'Consumer Meat Colour Score' (CMC) developed from the 20,140 consumer observations from the trial showed results directly contrary to some accepted beliefs. The colour of the striploin surface at grading was found to relate poorly to the other cuts and to change with ageing. Furthermore consumer preference discounted light coloured 1C beef but did not discount darker meat colour 4 samples. Ultimate pH was found to be more aligned with ultimate retail colour acceptability than the grading assessment. Meat colour did not differ across dentition categories from 2 to 6.

The sensory results were also instructive confirming a 12 MQ4 point eating quality penalty for 80:20 MAP relative to OWP and VSP, which were similar. The penalty for MAP was consistent across the three cuts and all prior primal ageing periods. Meat colour was again confirmed as having no eating quality relationship. Flavour volatiles differed for each packaging type.

After evaluation of the data, the MSA Pathways Committee recommended meat colour be removed as an MSA grading criteria; a pH limit of 5.7 be retained and that a 12 MQ4 point deduction be applied to beef sold in MAP. These recommendations were presented to the MSA Taskforce and AUS-MEAT Language and Standards Committee. Subsequently meat colour has been removed as an MSA grading requirement.

This research has delivered significant industry value through improved understanding of meat colour and packaging relationships from both visual and sensory perspectives. The removal of meat colour as an MSA grading requirement will significantly increase the number of carcasses grading MSA and redress a current anomaly, common in grass fed groups, where carcasses with acceptable pH are excluded by slow developing meat colour at the time of grading.


Title Size Date published
3.9MB 30/06/2017


Contract No. Title Start date End date Funding type
Teys Australia – Impacts on consumer acceptance of beef from interactions between pH, meat colour and packaging
01/09/2015 30/01/2017

This page was last updated on 06/07/2018