Lauren Honegger-Final internal cooking temperature of pork chops influenced consumer eating experience more than visual color and marbling
By: Erin Bryan
Lauren Honegger opened her discussion with asking what the packer can do to predict consumer purchase intent and eating experience. We know that color and marbling are good purchase predictors, and that lighter color is associated with a lower ultimate pH. We also know that pH is correlated with tenderness, the most important characteristic in determining repeat purchasing. Finally, with the recently lowered recommended cooking temperature of 63 °C, that lowering the degree of doneness increases sensory tenderness scores. Lauren asked, do ultimate pH or ‘quality grade’ (a combination of color and marbling) affect consumer eating experiences when pork chops are cooked to different internal temperatures?
In her first experiment, chops were classified as high (6.23-5.88) or low (5.36-5.56) pH, and cooked to varying internal temperatures. Consumers then rated the chops on tenderness, juiciness, flavor, and overall acceptability. Lauren reported that the high pH class did have higher juiciness scores, which she expected as pH is associated with water holding capacity. No other traits were impacted by pH class. In her second experiment, chops were categorized as either Choice or Standard by their color and marbling combination. She reported that no sensory traits were affected by quality grade.
Lauren concluded by pointing out that the most important trait affecting consumer ratings in both studies was the final degree of doneness. Lowering the cooking temperature to 63 °C improved tenderness, juiciness, flavor, and overall acceptability scores. Her take-home point was that the most important method producers and packer can use to ensure a high quality eating experience is to educate consumers on how to properly cook pork to a lower degree of doneness.