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    Red meat quality and tenderness focus of student research

    Posted 16 April

    Jack Saunders and Professor Michael Lee

    A student who has secured a graduate role in the livestock industry is conducting final-year research into red meat quality and tenderness using industry-standard Harper Adams equipment.

    Despite not growing up on a farm, BSc (Hons) Agribusiness student Jack Saunders, from Barnsley, found a taste for agriculture during his time at college and secured work on local farms and a role as a butcher at a local farm shop.

    He then honed his skills with four years at Harper Adams, with a Pig Industry scholarship placement at Woodhead Brothers, the vertically-integrated livestock supplier who provide meat for supermarket chain, Morrisons.

    Jack said: “During my time at college - and after having worked on both a dairy and beef farm - I decided to expand my knowledge of the field to fork process and worked as a butcher at Blacker Hall Farm Shop in Wakefield.

    “This allowed me to become knowledgeable about meat, the industry and customer service. I took this experience with me on placement to Woodhead Bros and Morrisons, where it stood me in great stead.

    “They have since offered me a place in the livestock procurement team.”

    For his final year research, Jack worked on a project funded by the Worshipful Company of Butchers, where he used the industry-standard equipment in the Harper Adams Food Academy – as well as his own knowledge of meat – to compare and contrast the factors which affect red meat quality and tenderness across different cuts.

    Jack added: “The study looks at comparing meat that has been treated differently during both pre-slaughter and post-slaughter stages. It then looks to compare scientific and laboratory-based results with the organoleptic senses of a trained butcher – that is, their senses of taste, smell, sight and touch - and to ascertain if there is any correlation between the two.

    “This research is important to me as I have been offered a job in the meat industry and this is my area of interest, so it is important to understand what the consumer wants.

    “For example, the consumer likes tenderness, which would indicate that dry-aged meat is preferable.

    “On the other hand, the consumer also rates colour an important quality factor, preferring bright, red meat. This causes a conflict in interest as dry-aged meat is darker in appearance.”

    Jack has run his tests in the Food Academy labs, using a pH analyser, a colour analyser and tenderness analyser, and has also worked with industry professionals to develop his research, which he is set to present in May. Earlier this year, a poster explaining his research was voted the Best Poster Presentation by his fellow students at the third annual Harper Adams Business and Food mini-conference.

    With his eyes already set on his graduate role, Jack credits Harper Adams with helping him secure his career in the livestock industry.

    He added: “I am not from a farming background but studied agriculture at college and wanted to further my education with links to both agriculture and business.

    “Therefore, I chose to do agribusiness as I was impressed with the course after I attended an Open Day at the University.

    “I had Harper as my first choice and was lucky enough to be offered a place. I looked at other universities but after listening to the business courses and lecturers, it became obvious that Harper was far superior.”

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