BURGERS came under the scrutiny of taste buds both young and not so young at the third Caterer & Hotelkeeper food test. The event, which was organised in conjunction with the Meat and Livestock Commission, took place at the MLC’s test kitchen in Milton Keynes at the end of March.



A wide selection of frozen burgers both economy and premium were tasted by a panel of six teenagers and then separately by a panel of seven adults, drawn from a wide sector of the industry.



The taste buds of the children were surprisingly discerning. Despite the fact that they admitted to generally eating their burgers in a bun and covered with relish, these young consumers nevertheless knew what they wanted from the burger itself. They all unashamedly described themselves as burger fiends with the majority citing McDonald’s as their favourite burger.



THE PRODUCTS



All burgers were provided by leading suppliers to the catering industry, many of whom as well as their own product, make burgers to individual specifications for major players.



Nine companies agreed to put their products to the test, submitting between them a total of 17 economy and premium products. The tag of economy or premium was provided by the suppliers themselves and was not given by Caterer & Hotelkeeper.



The following products were put to the test:



Fribo Foods: premium 80% beef; economy 60% beef, chicken and pork.



Plumtree Farms: premium 100% beef; economy 80% beef, American seasoned



JL Quality Foods: premium 99.5% beef; economy 65% beef



Brake Bros: premium 99.5% beef; economy 60% meat, pork, beef and chicken



Fellside Foods: premium 90% beef; economy beef and pork 80% broiling burgers



Booker Fitch: premium 99.5% beef; economy 65% beef



Harris Pork and Bacon Group: extra premium 100% beef; economy 65% beef & pork



Pullman Foods: premium 100% beef; economy 80% meat budget burger



McKey Foods: premium only: 100% beef quarter pounder



METHODOLOGY



None of the tasters had any idea whether they were tasting an economy or premium product, nor were they told the price of the product.



So that no particular significance was attached to either the first or the last, products were tasted in a random order. The Caterer & Hotelkeeper team helped ensure that each person received the correct burger.



MLC ready meals advisor Neil Saunders and home economist Lynn Williams cooked the burgers exactly according to suppliers’ instructions, thawing the product first when instructed to do so. All products were cooked to 68ºC to ensure that they reached the taster piping hot.



Candidates then marked the product according to the following criteria:



lJuiciness



lSmell



lTexture



lSeasoning



lFlavour



Each criterion was given a mark between one and five based on the following scale:



1= Dislike a lot



2= Dislike slightly



3= Neither like nor dislike



4= Like slightly



5= Like a lot



The judges were allowed to converse where it lead to a lively discussion but the final marks were based on individual opinion. This was borne out by the very different marks that were awarded.



OPINIONS



Both children and adults were asked to givetheir comments on the products they were tasting. Here they voice their opinions:



ADULTS:



Fribo Foods premium



“High gristle content, trace of bone fragment. Kept original shape and size.” Viv Harvey



Fribo Foods economy



“Slightly oily appearance, and spongy texture. Onion flavour too strong.” Margaret Lang



Brake Bros premium



“My impression of a reasonable qualityeconomy burger.” Perry Huntley



Brake Bros economy



“Tastes better than it looks but burger is still greasy with a fatty aftertaste.” Kath Young



Plumtree Farms premium



“Looks quite good, butafter this disappointing. Very finely chopped meat and strong artificial flavour.” David Clarke



Plumtree Farms economy



“A little tough in texture. Middle of the road.” John Braithwaite



Booker Fitch premium



“Reasonable burger, texture quite rough. Personally I’d like slightly more seasoning.” Margaret Lang



Booker Fitch economy



“Poor shape, full of cereal.” Catherine Chauvet



JL Quality Foods premium



“Total lack of seasoning. Poor texture and a lot of fat. I would not use this product.” John Braithwaite



JL Quality Foods economy



“Low meat content. Texture rubbery. Loses the image of meat.” Viv Harvey



Pullman Foods premium



“Fibrous burger indicating high meat content but is chewy due to gristle particles.” Kath Young



Pullman Foods economy



“Reasonably juicy, unusually pulpy texture. Seasoning OK.” Perry Huntley



Harris Pork and Bacon Group premium



“Dry. No succulence at all.” David Clarke



Harris Pork and Bacon Group economy



“Too much flavour enhancer. Artificial flavour dominates the seasoning.” David Clarke



Fellside Foods premium



“Average, about 80% meat content? Little too tight in texture, but flavour not bad.” David Clarke



Fellside Foods economy



“Pulpy texture, artificial flavouring. Not my choice.” Perry Huntley



McKey Foods premium



“Quite a nice burger, but could have been a bit juicier. Possibly too high a meat content.” Perry Huntley



CHILDREN:



Pullman Foods economy



“It’s full of flavour and very meaty. It’s a big, fat burger and I like that very much. But I think it has too much salt in it.” Stuart Wood



Plumtree Farms premium



“Very nice with a lovely flavour, but a bit too gristly. Sticks to your teeth.” Jane Baranowski



Plumtree Farms economy



“The burger had a delicious smell but was too dry. It also had a dark colour which meant it didn’t look very appetising.” Joanne Weygood



Fribo Foods economy



“Moist and pleasant. Had a good range of seasoning although the texture was a bit pƒté-like.” Lesley Andrews



Fellside Foods premium



“I liked it, it was one of the best burgers. I would definitely have it again.” Amy Remington



Booker Fitch economy



“The burger didn’t seemto have a lot of juice in it but it didn’t taste dry at all. It had a good spicyflavour.” Joanne Weygood. o



Kath Young,marketing manager, Wimpy International




Wimpy sells about 20 million burgers a year across its 250units. Burgers are manufactured to the company’s specifications using 100% beef from the flank and forequarter of the animal only. Young confesses to being a burger fan and given the choice would opt either for the Wimpy product or for making her own.



Viv Harvey, presentation anddisplay specialist,Meat and Livestock Commission



Harvey is part of a five-man team responsible for developing value-added meat products. Histeam is currently looking at making different shaped burgers towiden consumer choice. Harvey confesses thathe does not eat burgers very often, but when he does he makes his own.



Perry Huntley, commercial manager,TGI Friday’s



TGI Friday’s sells around 30,000 burgers every month. The burgers, which are made to the company’s specifications, are 9oz, 100% pure beef using only steer beef. The meat is bought in fresh, but the burgers are frozen before they leave the factory. Huntley believes the burgers on the market to be of an acceptable quality.



John Braithwaite, purchasing director, Ring & Brymer/ Town & County, outside catering divisions of Gardner Merchant



Ring & Brymer/ Town & County sell around one million burgers a year at leisure sites and sports venues nationwide. As well as a good flavour, burgers have to achieve minimum shrinkage and a low fat level. High-fat products drip on to the cooking equipment and produce clouds of smoke.



Burger definitions are governed by the Meat Products and Spreadable Fish Products Regulations 1984 and are as follows:



“Burger,” alone or as part of another word, such as baconburger:



l80% minimum meat content.



l At least 65% of meat content to be lean meat.



l If name is qualified by name of a specific meat at least 80% of product to be of that type.



l If name is qualified by name of cured meat at least 80% of product to be raw meat from which the cured meat is made.



l Meat content of burger in a bread roll relates only to meat fill.



Economy burger, whether or not burger is part of another word:



l 60% minimum meat content.



l At least 65% of meat content to be lean meat.



l Remaining requirements as for burger except 80% becomes 60%.



According to the MLC there is no strict definition of a premium burger. The MLC suggests that premium burgers should at least meet the criteria for burger and offer something extra so that the term “premium” cannot be deemed to be misleading.



The clear winner was Fribo Foods’ premium burger, polling some 94 points from the adult team and 122 from the children. It was one of only two products to feature in both top fours, the other being the overall second place, Pullman Foods’ 80% meat budget burger.



The Fribo Foods’ premium burger also took four of the five criteria top placings on the children’s scores, losing out only on smell.



The top adult product, the 100% beef premium product from McKey Foods, was one of the least liked by the children, for whom it came in at 15th place.For adults it took three of the five criteria top ratings, losing out only on smell and juiciness.



Children and adults were unable to concur on one product as a clear winner for individual criteria.



Assessment of individual criteria, products scoring 20 points or more out of a possible 30 points.



JUICINESS:



Fribo Foods premium



Fellside Foods premium



McKey Foods premium



Fribo Foods economy



Pullman Foods economy



SMELL:



Fribo Foods economy



Fellside Foods premium



Fribo Foods premium



Fellside Foods economy



TEXTURE:



Fribo Foods premium



Fellside Foods premium



Fellside Foods economy



Fribo Foods economy



Pullman Foods economy



SEASONING:



Fribo Foods premium



JL Quality premium



Plumtree Farms premium



Fribo Foods economy



Pullman Foods economy



FLAVOUR:



Fribo Foods premium



Plumtree Farms economy



JL Quality premium



Fellside Foods premium



Plumtree Farms premium



Fribo Foods economy



Pullman Foods economy



Fribo Foods premium and economy burgers were the only ones to score 20 points or more in every category. The children tended to give higher marks for seasoning and flavour than the other categories.



Products scoring 10 points or below out of a possible 30 points.



JUICINESS:



Pullman Foods premium



Harris Pork and Bacon Group economy



SMELL:



Harris Pork and Bacon Group economy



TEXTURE:



Plumtree Farms economy



SEASONING:



McKey Foods premium



FLAVOUR:



JL Quality economy



Scoring 20 points or more out of a possible 35 points.



JUICINESS:



Fribo Foods premium



Plumtree Farms economy



Fellside Foods economy



Plumtree Farms premium



Harris Pork and Bacon Group economy



Booker Fitch premium



Pullman Foods economy



SMELL:



Plumtree Farms economy



McKey Foods premium



Plumtree Farms premium



TEXTURE:



Fribo Foods premium



McKey Foods premium



Booker Fitch premium



SEASONING:



Nothing above 20. Highest mark – 19, scored by McKey Foods’ premium burger.



FLAVOUR:



Fribo Foods premium



Pullman Foods premium



McKey Foods premium



Scoring 10 point or below out of a possible 35 points



JUICINESS:



Harris Pork and Bacon Group



SMELL:



Nothing



TEXTURE:



JL Quality economy



Booker Fitch economy



SEASONING:



Booker Fitch economy



FLAVOUR:



JL Quality economy



ECONOMY VERSUS PREMIUM



Best premium product went to Fribo Foods, and best economy to Pullman Foods, 80% meat budget burger.



In the adult top three, all products were premium with both the Pullman Foods’ budget and premium products inequal fourth place. In the children’s top four there were two of each. Top came premium, second came economy, third premium and fourth economy.



CONCLUSION



As might be expected, the adults were more critical than the children. On the whole, they also favoured the premium products, whereas the children gave high marks to many economy products. Despite their critical ratings for some products, all the adults agreed on one point. Burgers are on the whole seen as a meal experience and many of the burgers which came in for criticism would have been acceptable served in a bun and covered with relish.



How did our tasters feel at the end of the day?



The adults agreed that they had had enough, with many saying that they did not want to see another burger. For the children, though, it was a different story. Even after tasting 17 burgers they were still game for more. They left the MLC’s offices to go off for a burger. Their chosen outlet? – McDonald’s.


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