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Going for gold in flavour, consistency and pleasure

Article originally written by Peter Haydon for Australian Pork Newspaper

It has long been established that the competitiveness of Australian pork at an international level will have to be within premium niche markets. Our higher production costs require that for the most part. Premiums can be justified by product benefits, provenance stories or both. Recent research was conducted into creating a premium product through an improved pork flavour profile.

Spanish Iberico pork is highly valued for its taste and quality. It has been shown these can be attributed to higher levels of a particular fatty acid (oleic acid) in the pork fat. One way to imitate this in Australian pigs could be to include macadamia nuts, and/or macadamia oil in pig diets. An experiment conducted by researchers from the University of Queensland and managed by R&I’s Production Innovation Manager, Rebecca Athorn, investigated consumer responses to macadamia-fed pork. 

The results showed that consumers responded more favourably to the macadamia fed pork compared to pork from pigs fed traditional diets. The consumers described the pork from pigs fed macadamia oil as having higher caramelised notes and an overall improved flavour pleasantness.

Other work to improve pork eating experience is also underway, in two main areas:

Reducing “fail” rates of pork meals

Currently, one in six pork eating experiences are classified as a fail. Muscle pH influences the carcass yield, colour and pork tenderness. The pH of pork declines over 24 hours after slaughter, and the rate of this decline is an important contributor to eating quality. After chilling, a high ultimate pH results in tougher, darker pork, awhile a low ultimate pH results in pale pork with poor water holding capacity). Measuring and managing ultimate pH in pork has commercial and consumer benefits. APL are working with processors to conduct a national pH audit across the export abattoirs. This will be reported on by September 2020.

We’re also working to draft eating experience quality standards. These will draw from existing standards and quality systems to address known contributors to failed pork – like stress due to handling and transport and boar taint – to reduce failure rates.

Creating remarkable experiences

In addition to preventing fails, we also want to increase the number of remarkable eating experiences. More great, fewer okay. APL recently initiated “A literature review of memorable eating experience research”. This project will give us a better understanding of pleasure associated with eating food and how it is influenced by the product, social interactions and/or personal relationships. It will also look into what makes a meal, recipe or occasion memorable creating a desire for it to be repeated. These findings will then be used to develop practical recommendations for product improvement. We expect this work to be complete by the end of July 2020.

Producers can expect to see more projects with a similar focus, as “Quality consumer eating experiences” has been identified as a strategic intent (key area of investment focus) for APL R&D moving forward. Also identified as key investment areas are “Reduced cost of production and processing” and  “Biosecurity leadership”. The latter will be another focus area which will look to decrease Australia’s response time to biosecurity threats and aim to “push back the borders” (detect potential threats before they reach Australia).

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Australian Pork Limited

The producer owned organisation supporting and promoting the Australian pork industry. Australian Pork Limited (APL) is caring for the future of Australian pork.