Planet Earth

What makes turkey taste like...pork?

Seriously, Science?By Seriously ScienceNov 26, 2014 10:13 AM
Photo: Flickr/Dawn Endico
Photo: Flickr/Dawn Endico

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“Tastes like chicken!” It’s a saying we use a lot when referring to exotic meats, and you might think, being a bird, that it might apply to turkey as well. But according to this study, that’s dead wrong. In fact, the meat that most closely resembles turkey in flavor is actually pork! To determine this, researchers concocted ground meat patties composed of beef, chicken, pork, lamb or turkey, and had a panel of tasters rate how strongly each meat tasted using 18 different attributes. They then performed principle component analysis (a statistical method that can tell you in which ways two things differ the most) to determine which flavors differentiated the meats from each other. The result of this meaty analysis? “Beef and lamb were most closely related to flavor attributes such as roast beef, grassy, gamey, barny, livery, metallic, and bitter. Pork and turkey were inversely related to these, and were more closely related to juicy, fatty, salty, brothy, sweet, and umami notes. Chicken was not strongly related to any meats or attributes when all the meats were considered together.” So if you don’t feel up to roasting turkey this Thanksgiving, you might consider serving up pork, rather than chicken, as it’s closer to the traditional fare. Science!

Identification and quantification of flavor attributes present in chicken, lamb, pork, beef, and turkey.

The objectives of this study were to use a meat flavor lexicon to identify and quantify flavor differences among different types of meats such as beef, chicken, lamb, pork, and turkey, and to identify and quantify specific flavor attributes associated with “beef flavor” notes. A trained descriptive panel with 11 participants used a previously developed meat lexicon composed of 18 terms to evaluate the flavor of beef, chicken, pork, turkey, and lamb samples. Results show that beef and lamb samples can be described by flavor attributes such as barny, bitter, gamey, grassy, livery, metallic, and roast beef. Inversely related to these samples were pork and turkey and those attributes that were closely related to them, namely brothy, fatty, salty, sweet, and umami. Chicken was not strongly related to the other types of meats or the attributes used. The descriptive panel also evaluated samples of ground beef mixed with chicken to identify and quantify flavor attributes associated with a “beef flavor.” Meat patties for this portion consisted of ground beef mixed with ground chicken in varying amounts: 0%, 25%, 50%, 75%, and 100% beef, with the remainder made up of chicken. Beef and beef-rich patties (75% beef) were more closely related to flavor attributes such as astringent, bloody, fatty, gamey, metallic, livery, oxidized, grassy, and roast beef, while chicken was more closely associated with brothy, juicy, sour, sweet, and umami. This research provides information regarding the specific flavor attributes that differentiate chicken and beef products and provides the first set of descriptors that can be associated with “beefy” notes. POTENTIAL APPLICATION: The use of a standardized flavor lexicon will allow meat producers to identify specific flavors present in their products. The impact is to identify and quantify negative and positive flavors in the product with the ultimate goal of optimizing processing or cooking conditions and improve the quality of meat products.

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