'Bite Test' Could Save Millions with New Thin Cut Steak Options

Wed, 17 Jan 2018

UK - Early trials with an electronic bite test show the meat industry could save more than £7 million, turning cuts graded as slower cook into thin cut steaks.

As part of work to increase carcase value, AHDB experts have used equipment known as a texture analyser to measure the force needed to 'bite' through a small sample of meat, placing a kilogram value to measure its tenderness.

Using this science, muscles within the British beef carcase have been tested and found to be suitable for use as quick cook thin cut steaks. During the summer months, cuts used for winter dishes may lose value, needing to be frozen, exported or put through the mincer.

Early tests indicate industry could reap more than £5.2 million creating thin cut steaks from Chuck and £2.5 million from the Leg of Mutton Cut (LMC). Extensive analysis has also been carried out on beef in the US.

AHDB Beef & Lamb has also identified thin cut steaks as a new means to get consumers to eat more beef any day of the week.

Mike Whittemore, Head of Trade and Product Development at AHDB, said: "British pride lies in the quality of the beef that’s produced. The 'bite test' uses shear force to measure tenderness, meaning that retailers could quantify quality and charge accordingly. It also helps to ensure consistency and boost consumer confidence in beef steak."

The human jaw is so sensitive it can detect a change in tenderness of just 0.5kgs. Research with UK beef will continue, potentially offering retailers opportunity to label thin cut steaks from good through to premium, on counters across the country.

Within the AHDB strategy, a target to increase the value of the English beef category by three per cent has been set. Quality is also identified as a key driver of choice for consumers.

Laura Ryan, AHDB Beef & Lamb Strategy Director, said: "This is a strategic move, allowing the wider meat industry to gain more value and improve quality from every beef carcase. The research offers processors opportunity to move cuts needing to go towards lower price options, into the higher value thin cut steak category, as and when they need.

"Most importantly, thin cut steaks meet consumer needs. Today’s busy lifestyle means people are changing their eating habits and demand ease in cooking meat of any kind. These steaks can be cooked quickly, forming part of a wide range of dishes for lunch or dinner, from stir-fries, to beef salads, to fajitas and steak sandwiches. The cut also commands a price, which both generates greater value for the producer and retailer, but remains affordable for the customer."

Currently, there are a number of different names for quick cook steaks, including minute, sizzle and frying steaks, which can cause confusion for shoppers. Using consumer research, the name, ‘thin cut steak’ has been tested and proven to be the most effective.

To raise awareness with shoppers, thin cut steaks will now be promoted with consumer marketing campaigns in 2018, including Great British Beef Week organised by Ladies in Beef, which starts on Monday, 23 April until 30 April.

For retailers and processors who would like to find out more about the research and the thin cut campaign, please visit the Quality Meat Scotland (QMS) and AHDB Beef and Lamb websites.