Scientists from Scotland have begun a UK-wide beef research project testing which production methods make the best steak at this week’s Balmoral Show.
The project is lead by Dunbia, which will work alongside SRUC, Scotland’s Rural College, and precision farming software firm Breedr.
The tasting will be carried out in SRUC’s new specialist mobile sensory lab – a converted articulated lorry adapted to contain 12 tasting stations and a mini kitchen – which will be used to take the research to different corners of the UK.
The idea is to capture enough consumer data to be able to analyse which breeds and production systems produce the tastiest beef and to use the findings to influence future beef breeding and production systems.
Prof. Eileen Wall, whose research has focused on reducing the environmental impact of red meat through genetic progress and more efficient ruminant livestock systems, will lead the genetic and sensory analysis aspects of the project.
The team is aiming to oversee 900 steak tastings this week at the show, with members of the public asked to rate the samples for tenderness, juiciness and flavour preferences.
“Each person will get three steak samples – and we are telling them nothing about them!” Prof. Wall said.
“The project is called ‘Conception to Consumption’ and we are about two-thirds of the way through it now.
“What we are aiming to do is to trace animals literally from conception to consumption – so we are carrying out the fieldwork for the consumption end this week at the show.
“We are following animals from across the beef sector representing a range of UK breeds and systems. There’s a mixture of native beef, continental and dairy-bred beef as well.
“What we are trying to work out is what makes an efficient lifetime for an animal and tastier output at the end,” she added.