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Understanding the eating quality perceptions of international consumers to Australian sheepmeat

O'Reilly, Rachel Amy (2022) Understanding the eating quality perceptions of international consumers to Australian sheepmeat. PhD thesis, Murdoch University.

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Abstract

Consistent eating quality of sheepmeat is crucial to satisfy consumers, ensuring that they repurchase product. Therefore, this thesis explored the key factors that affect consumer perceptions of eating quality, namely American, Australian and Chinese consumers tasting Australian sheepmeat. These international consumer groups were selected based on their divergent relationships with lamb and sheepmeat products, and relevance to the Australian sheepmeat industry. To test consumer responses, the Meat Standards Australia (MSA) sensory protocols were utilised as they provide an internationally accepted methodology to assess untrained consumer perceptions of sheepmeat and beef products. Further, the existing MSA prediction models already adopted by the Australian industry provide a mechanism for the seamless integration of findings from this work.

The first experiment compared the sensory responses of 2,160 untrained American, Australian and Chinese consumers to grilled longissimus lumborum and semimembranosus muscles from Australian lambs (n=164) and yearlings (n=168). Linear mixed effects models demonstrated no difference between the three countries for juiciness and overall liking scores, while for tenderness, liking of flavour and odour, American consumers scored highest, followed by Australian and Chinese consumers. Across these consumer groups, similar factors were shown to influence eating quality, yet varied in the magnitude of their effect. All consumer groups preferred the longissimus lumborum, lambs compared to yearlings, and Merino sired and female lambs. Analysis of consumer demographic factors and sheepmeat consumption habits on eating quality scores, demonstrated consumer age, gender, number of adults in a household and income affected sensory scores, however no consistent trend was observed across the different countries. Frequency of lamb consumption had an impact on sensory scores of the three consumer groups. Linear discriminate analyses were used to determine quality thresholds, and accuracy of predicted quality grades compared to actual consumer assigned grades. Chinese consumers demonstrated the most generous consignment of samples to higher quality grades, while American and Australian consumers were similarly more critical. The optimised discriminate function was also most accurate for Chinese consumer assignment to quality grades compared to Australian and American predictions. The last component of this work aimed to develop and test a new MSA cooking method, traditional Chinese hotpot. This experiment involved testing sensory responses of 720 untrained Chinese consumers to Australian lamb (n=108) and yearling (n=109) shoulder and leg cuts to assess the impact of cut-type and animal factors on eating quality using this cooking method. Shoulder cuts were more palatable than leg cuts, lambs were preferred to yearlings, and increasing intramuscular fat had a positive influence on sensory scores. Conversely, increasing muscularity negatively influenced eating quality scores. Results suggest shoulder and leg cuts cooked using hotpot could provide a better eating experience compared to some previously tested sheepmeat cooking methods. In addition, the influence of muscularity and intramuscular fat emphasise the importance of balanced selection for quality and yield traits to ensure consumer satisfaction is maintained.

Overall, results demonstrated that consumer sensory perceptions of sheepmeat are highly consistent across countries, irrespective of cultural differences, with minimal variation in eating quality scores between the three countries and a consistent response to animal and production factors. However, the discriminate analysis demonstrated some perceptions of quality varied between the three countries, suggesting further investigation through the scope of the new sheepmeat MSA model may be beneficial to determine whether adjustments should be made to prediction models for product destined for these markets.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): Agricultural Sciences
Supervisor(s): Pannier, Liselotte, Pethick, David and Gardner, Graham
URI: http://researchrepository.murdoch.edu.au/id/eprint/66512
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