Consumers provided with labeling information on ground beef patties believed the beef labeled as "locally sourced" was much better in terms of tenderness, juiciness, flavor, texture and overall liking. And when consumers were told the ground beef was grass-fed and locally produced, it was rated even higher.
It was all a little trick for the sake of research. In reality, all of the ground beef (80% lean and 20% fat) came from the same production lot/day, and it was bought in chubs prior to being made into patties. Each chub went randomly to a consumer panel as patties. Those patties were randomly assigned different label terms including all-natural (AN), animal raised without antibiotics (WA), animal raised without added hormones (WH), fresh never frozen (FNF), grass-fed, locally sourced and organic.
Consumers were asked to evaluate the patties they tasted for tenderness, juiciness, flavor and texture on a 0-to-100 scale. They also rated the patties as acceptable or unacceptable for each trait. The consumers were given labeling information that had been created for each patty prior to tasting the sample. Some interesting findings showed the following:
-- When evaluating flavor, samples labeled as grass-fed beef had a larger increase in the ratings than samples labeled as WA, WH and even premium quality.
-- Adding production claims that consumers recognized improved palatability as perceived by the consumer.
-- Consumers rated grassfed, organic and AN as similar for "flavor liking" and purchasing intent.
-- When products were labeled as AN, WA, WH, FNF, locally sourced, premium quality and organic, there was a large increase in the overall liking ratings from consumers.
The research team, headed by K.M. Harr, E.S. Beyer and K.J. Famer of Kansas State University, wrote that, ultimately, adding production claims consumers recognized made for a better eating experience. They added that events of 2020 and 2021 have set the stage for consumers to be more "adapted to wanting foods that are locally sourced, which are likely a direct cause of the results we found."
They reported previous research has found a perceived "quality halo" around locally produced products, even when, as in this case, there was actually no real difference.
Victoria Myers can be reached at email@example.com
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