Scientists at AgResearch are examining how factors such as gender and pH values impact the eating quality of pork.
Consumer testing will help the researchers evaluate attributes such as aroma, tenderness, juiciness, flavour and liking and overall perception of quality - and how likely they would be to purchase the pork.
The New Zealand pork industry aims to use the findings of the study to develop a quality mark for pork so Kiwis can be confident they’ll have a consistently excellent eating experience every time.
The research is a collaboration between NZPork, the industry organisation for commercial pig farmers, and the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI), through its Sustainable Food and Fibre Futures fund.
AgResearch senior scientist Carolina Realini, who has extensive experience in New Zealand and overseas researching the quality of pork and other food products, said she and her science colleagues would focus on consumer sensory testing with pork loin from different genders and at different pH levels.
“We’ll draw on the eating experiences of a group of consumers to gain insights into what they perceive from different treatments. The findings of this consumer study will then lead to independent written findings that can be drawn on by the industry.”
NZPork chief executive Brent Kleiss said although New Zealand born and raised pork is of the highest quality from an environmental and animal welfare perspective, there is no verifiable programme to measure eating quality.
“The findings will give us valuable information and insights about just how much pig gender and pH factors enhance or lessen the eating experience. This is about the industry ensuring Kiwis can be confident about the quality of New Zealand born and raised pork.”
NZPork is also working hard to bust misconceptions about NZ-born and raised pork, said Mr Kleiss.
“Pork is one of the most popular proteins in the world, but some people still believe all pork is a fatty meat. However, most cuts of pork are quite lean when the external fat (which is easy to remove) is cut off, the same as you might do for other meats.
“Many New Zealanders may also be unaware of the essential nutrients in New Zealand pork. It is a great source of quality protein and zinc, and also provides iron, and many B vitamins.”
Jason McLaren, project manager at Freshpork NZ Ltd, said: “As a processor and wholesaler of New Zealand raised pork, Freshpork NZ is committed to continually improving the eating quality of our products.
“The most exciting part about this research is that it’s specific to the New Zealand pork industry, making it very relevant to us. This means the findings could guide future decisions about how to further improve our processes to continually provide top quality New Zealand pork products that consumers can rely on.”
Steve Penno, MPI’s director of investment programmes, agrees that the knowledge about developing a consistently high-quality product will be an especially valuable part of the project.
“Better understanding of what leads to pork with attributes consumers enjoy most will help farmers raise a premium homegrown product.”
NZPork also operates the PigCare™ certification label programme, which provides assurance for shoppers that the pork they are purchasing comes from pigs born and raised in New Zealand to high standards of welfare.
This eating quality research is expected to be completed early next year.
NZPork is contributing $59,875 to the research project with MPI’s Sustainable Food and Fibre Futures fund investing $45,000 and FreshPork $4,648.