A new variation on the marketing slogan: ‘don’t sell the steak, sell the sizzle’, has emerged from the academic world.
Sandra Edwards, professor of agriculture at Newcastle University, reckons the time may be ripe to promote beef production systems to an increasingly educated public.
“There is a general perception by many consumers that meat from some systems is inherently better than from others and, in particular, that meat from extensive natural systems is better than that produced intensively,” she told the annual Langford Food Industry conference.
This would require a combination of controlled
scientific comparisons with a larger scale holistic study of different systems.
However, her own work in the pig sector - comparing indoor and outdoor pig production systems - failed to show any consistent difference in tenderness, juiciness and flavour in favour of either system.
This led her to believe there might be a glitch in the marketing premise.
“If such perceptions are not supported by reality, disillusionment and rejection may be the ultimate consequence.”
“If a label is simply a cynical marketing tool, rather than an informative aid to choice, any consumer response will be of limited value.”
On the other hand, Professor Jeff Wood of Bristol University has little doubt that grass feeding systems provide a real bonus for consumers in terms of both taste and the added benefits of Omega 3 fatty acids and natural vitamin E. The red colour was also retained for longer in retail display.
In terms of a sustainable future for the meat industry, grass feeding provides part of the answer for beef and lamb, he concluded.
Vic Robertson