University of Arkansas, Fayetteville Division of Agriculture


Nutritional concerns have impacted the protein market, decreasing red meat consumption as well as prompting the advent of lean and extra lean ground beef. However, such lean blends of ground beef may suffer in palatability. This study seeks to bridge the gap between perceived health and palatability. Participants were asked to identify the relative importance of characteristics commonly used in purchasing ground beef and select a preferred package of ground beef from labeled and unlabeled sections consisting of 4%, 10%, 20%, and 27% fat content. Instrumental color data and their main drivers were also collected. Participants then completed a blind taste sampling of ground beef with variable fat contents as previously described. Color, fat, and price were found to be significantly more important (P < 0.05) than label, which was significantly more important than company for package preference. No trend towards fatter or leaner blends was found between labeled and unlabeled selections, with 62.64% of participants selecting identical packages between the two sections. Instrumental color data found significant trends in lightness and oxymyoglobin ratio, the proportion of pigment that is bright cherry red, that may be used to identify leaner product without a label. No significant differences were found between the blends for any trait in sensory taste evaluation. These results suggest that while consumers have specific preferences when purchasing ground beef that can be replicated without a label using visual inspection alone, they are less discerning between cooked ground beef of different fat contents. This may explain the continued demand for lean ground beef.