Untrained consumer assessment of the eating quality of European beef: 2. Demographic factors have only minor effects on consumer scores and willingness to pay
The beef industry must become more responsive to the changing market place and consumer demands. An essential part of this is quantifying a consumer's perception of the eating quality of beef and their willingness to pay for that quality, across a broad range of demographics. Over 19 000 consumers from Northern Ireland, Poland, Ireland and France each tasted seven beef samples and scored them for tenderness, juiciness, flavour liking and overall liking. These scores were weighted and combined
... create a fifth score, termed the Meat Quality 4 score (MQ4) (0.3×tenderness, 0.1×juiciness, 0.3×flavour liking and 0.3×overall liking). They also allocated the beef samples into one of four quality grades that best described the sample; unsatisfactory, good-every-day, better-than-every-day or premium. After the completion of the tasting panel, consumers were then asked to detail, in their own currency, their willingness to pay for these four categories which was subsequently converted to a proportion relative to the good-every-day category (P-WTP). Consumers also answered a short demographic questionnaire. The four sensory scores, the MQ4 score and the P-WTP were analysed separately, as dependant variables in linear mixed effects models. The answers from the demographic questionnaire were included in the model as fixed effects. Overall, there were only small differences in consumer scores and P-WTP between demographic groups. Consumers who preferred their beef cooked medium or well-done scored beef higher, except in Poland, where the opposite trend was found. This may be because Polish consumers were more likely to prefer their beef cooked well-done, but samples were cooked medium for this group. There was a small positive relationship with the importance of beef in the diet, increasing sensory scores by about 4% in Poland and Northern Ireland. Men also scored beef about 2% higher than women for most sensory scores in most countries. In most countries, consumers were willing to pay between 150 and 200% more for premium beef, and there was a 50% penalty in value for unsatisfactory beef. After quality grade, by far the greatest influence on P-WTP was country of origin. Consumer age also had a small negative relationship with P-WTP. The results indicate that a single quality score could reliably describe the eating quality experienced by all consumers. In addition, if reliable quality information is delivered to consumers they will pay more for better quality beef, which would add value to the beef industry and encourage improvements in quality.