Quality Standards for Processed Meat – A Three-Part Series

As we saw in Part 1, good quality control in processed meats helps ensure your customers receive the product they want and expect.  A key tool in quality control is the establishment of sensory quality standards, built on a strong lexicon of sensory attributes.  It’s important to train your team to these sensory attributes so everyone understands the exact features important to your products.  Who should be trained?  Everyone!  Anyone interacting with the products or talking about the products (developers, plant personnel, market research, sales) will benefit from understanding the key product features important to the quality and success of your product in the marketplace.

A sensory professional can design a training for your team to help them understand the sensory attributes defining your product. This training will ensure your team is utilizing consistent language to describe your products in a similar way.  The training will focus on an overview of the category of interest (hot dogs, for example) and utilize attribute references to describe the appearance, aroma, flavor, and texture of the products in the category.

Hot Dog References (Click to Expand)
  • Cured meat flavors
  • Coriander
  • Firmness
  • Mass character
  • Visual roughness

Next your team will practice evaluating a few products for key sensory attributes and/or quality.  For a product development or market research team, the training should focus on the broad range of attributes seen in the category, ensuring the team can align on the characteristics of the product space.  In a manufacturing environment, the focus is on quality and key attributes for the individual product or products produced, ensuring those tasting products off the line have the training and confidence to OK the production.

This training is key to ensure product cuttings and plant tastings are efficient and provide actionable and directional guidance.  Have you been in a cutting which quickly devolves into an argument over pork flavor vs. beef flavor?  Sour vs. bitter?  Grainy texture vs. chalky texture?  By learning and speaking the same language during your evaluations, you can ensure when the team defines hot dog A as higher in “cured beef fat” flavor than hot dog B, this is a noticeable difference from which you can decide on a course of action for the product.  Without this training, some participants may be cuing “cured beef fat” flavor impact from other meat flavors, from umami, from salt, even from texture attributes that are often associated with beef, such a fibrous texture.  A brief training, most often completed in a little as 1-2 days, can provide a common language base for you and your team, as well as show you the process to continue to augment your common language on your own.

Sensory Spectrum’s team of consultants, trained in meat product evaluations and moderation techniques, can design a custom training for you and your team through our Spectrum Speak training (SpecSpeak) and Quality trainings in-plant.  Further, our panels can provide a lexicon for all categories of interest to you (Spectrum Method Descriptive Analysis).  

Ivy Koelliker, Director of Consulting

Ivy Koelliker joined Sensory Spectrum in 2010. As a Director at Sensory Spectrum, Ivy manages a team of consultants whose expertise spans a wide variety of consumer product categories and sensory research techniques. Ivy specializes in food descriptive analysis and training food descriptive panels, and has expertise in statistical techniques, including linking consumer and descriptive data.

Ivy has an M.S. degree in Food Science from Rutgers University and completed her B.S. in Biological Sciences there, as well. She also has a Grand Diploma in the Culinary Arts from the French Culinary Institute.

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