Organic pork is more expensive than non-organic pork. But does it taste better as well? To that end, the Meat Quality project is being set up in the European Union.
In the 4-year project, a data warehouse will be set up, where all data from different countries can be collected in a similar fashion. The central question is whether pork and chicken meat from extensive livestock farming tastes better than meat coming from conventional farms. Researchers will visit farms in Denmark, Germany, Poland, Spain and Italy, looking at animal welfare, the animal breeds and the type of food they are given.
Throughout the project, the meat from the different farms will be presented to taste panels. The meat’s properties will also be investigated in the lab, with chemical and physical analysis of the meat.
All in all, different data will be collected from various European countries. Examples are scores from the animal welfare questionnaires that researchers conduct on farms, data from the taste panels and data from the lab research. And it must also be possible to link all data together. After all, you want to be able to check whether the meat from a German organic pig farm really tastes different and has a separate composition than the meat from a conventional Danish pig farm.
Wageningen University & Research (WUR) is coordinating the project and will build the warehouse where all the data will be assembled. Dr Hans Spoolder, of Wageningen Livestock Research is involved as project leader. In a news article at the WUR website, he comments, “People who eat organic products say they taste better. But do they? And if so, why?”
If it were all up to Dr Spoolder, the Meat Quality project would form the basis for a large, European database on meat origins. Dr Spoolder: “This kind of European database exists for wine. The Oritain company is setting up a database for beef and lamb. They are interested in our data on chickens and pigs. The traceability of meat is important in the prevention of meat fraud. Think of the horse meat scandal and meat being labelled as organic when it actually comes from factory farming. Identifying meat fraud is a side track in our project. We don’t have the budget to develop it further, but we will be able to contribute to an international meat database in due course.”