A unique new study is being launch to benchmark the quality of beef being sold in English supermarkets.
Mystery shoppers will buy packs of beef from shops across the country before passing them on to be tested for toughness by EBLEX.
The results will give a snapshot of the quality of beef being sold in English stores, creating a yardstick against which quality in future years can be measured to show how much modern farming methods and changes in practices can influence the overall quality.
Individual results will not be made public but will be shared with the stores where the meat was bought and processors who supply the stores.
Kim Matthews, EBLEX Meat Scientist, said: "The tests are relatively straightforward to do but this will be a widespread benchmarking exercise, testing meat from stores across England to give a true picture of the quality of beef being bought by shoppers.
"We are focusing on toughness as this still appears to be the major concern from consumers with regard to beef quality. We are also exploring whether we can cost-effectively test the meat for indicators of animal age to understand whether variation in age at slaughter is influencing toughness.
"The results will be presented to retailers and processors on a one-to-one basis on request, enabling them compare their score against the average for the whole study."
EBLEX will be working with experienced scientists with expertise is assessing product quality. Sampling will start as soon as sampling protocols are agreed and results are expected to be fed back to the retailers in the autumn.
John Cross, EBLEX Chairman, added: "Beef is a high-price purchase in the weekly shop and consumers must be confident that they are getting value for money. It is also important that the eating experience is right and it would be remiss of EBLEX not to make efforts to ensure what is on the shelves is of consistent quality.
"This exercise will be an invaluable tool for the industry supply chain - from producers to abattoirs to retailers - in benchmarking where we are, looking at consistency in eating quality across the country and doing our best to ensure consumers continue to enjoy the best possible product."
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