New Sensory Testing Facility Open
Durham December 16, 2004
New Agricultural Research
Service (ARS) food processing and testing facilities in Beltsville, Md.
will make it easier for scientists and others to evaluate the safety and
quality of meat products.
Two years in development, the new sensory testing facility at the ARS
Technology and Safety Laboratory houses 10 testing booths. Each one
includes a computer so trained panelists can offer quick and efficient feedback
to researchers. Food technologist
Neale Liu has overseen the remodeling of the new facility.
Laboratory scientists look for ways to tenderize and reduce the amount
of pathogenic and spoilage microbes on whole muscle meats and processed meats,
such as hams and sausages. Hydrodynamic pressure processing (HDP) and other
pressure processing methods are being evaluated to achieve these goals. HDP has
been shown to be successful in tenderizing whole muscle meat, but its
effectiveness in processed meat products is unknown
To test meats for texture, juiciness and flavor, sensory testing
panels are convened. Some are more general in nature, testing for personal
observations of flavor, juiciness, etc. Other panels, called technical
descriptive panels, are more sophisticated, requiring extensive training to
allow panelists to quantify those perceptions. Tenderness can also be
determined by laboratory instruments.
Meats used in testing are processed and cooked on-site using
commercial equipment. To approximate commercial conditions, equipment such as a
food chopper, vacuum stuffer and vacuum tumbler are used to make further
processed meat such as hams and sausages. A commercial smokehouse is used to
cook and/or smoke the meat products.
New studies are underway to evaluate pressure technologies in the role
of improving the quality and shelf-life of meat products. Use of the new
equipment and sensory testing facilities will assist the scientists in
determining the value-added capabilities of these technologies.
ARS is the U.S. Department of
Agriculture's chief scientific research agency.