Consumer Acceptance of Pork Loins
Livestock Update, January 2002
Jennifer Huber and C. M. Wood, Animal & Poultry Sciences, Virginia Tech
In the pork industry, there is one common goal: to provide a uniform, quality product to the consumer. Consumers are looking for a pork product that has two main qualities: coloring and tenderness. Tenderness is measured objectively using a Warner-Bratzler instron, which tests the shear force of the pork to ascertain the tenderness and chewability of the meat. Color, however, has been a more subjective measurement. The NPPC chart is commonly used (Morgan, 1997). It classifies coloring from 1 (lightest) to 5 (darkest).
Recently a study was performed to determine the relationship of color and reflectiveness to Warner-Bratzler shear force values and consumer preference (Norman et al., 2001). Pork loins were assigned to three groups based on NPPC color standards. Group1 included standards 1 and 2, Group 2 included standards 3 and 4, and Group 5 included standard 5. Two center cut chops were removed from each of the loins and Warner-Bratzler shear force values, Hunter color (measures light reflectance), and pH values were determined. Cuts from the loins were randomly given to consumers over a three-week period. They were asked to prepare, consume, and evaluate the meat using a nine-point sensory scale (1 = dislike extremely; 9 = like extremely). The scale included overall likeness, tenderness liking, juiciness liking, and flavor liking. The chops the consumers received varied in location along the loin. Results indicated that neither Warner-Bratzler shear force values nor customer preference were related to color grouping or reflectance. In a similar study conducted in the same lab, it was shown that throughout the length of the pork loin there is variation in color and pH, neither of which detrimentally affected the tenderness of the loin (Lorenzen et al., 2001).
Although the results of these studies still put pressure on farmers to produce quality pork, some variation may be allowable within the cuts of certain meats. Even if color does not affect tenderness, however, color of the meat on the shelf in the food store does affect the choices a consumer will make. Consumers may not be willing to buy a product that, in their perception, does not appear to be safe to eat. More information needs to be given to consumers for them to understand that most meats take time to fully tenderize and are not necessarily in bad condition if they are not of uniform color. This means that producers must take extra strides not only in satisfying the consumer, but also in informing the consumer.
Lorenzen, C. L., J. L. Norman, G. K. Renfrow, C. A. Stahl, E. P. Berg, and M. R. Ellerstock. 2001. Variation in color and pH measurements throughout boneless pork loins. J. Anim. Sci. 79(Suppl. 1):76 (Abstr.).
Norman, J. L., C. L. Lorenzen, C. A. Stahl, G. K. Renfrow, E. P. Berg, and H. Heymann. 2001. In-Home consumer acceptance of boneless pork loins varying in color. J. Anim. Sci. 79(Suppl. 1):77 (Abstr.).
Morgan, M. 1997. NPPC Color Groups. Available at: http://abe.www.ecn.purdue.edu/~epados/farmstead/swine/pptqual2/quality.htm%25 Accessed October 22, 2001.