Project Summary

Identifying the Consist of Preference for Beef Flavors among Beef Consumers

Principle Investigator(s):
Dale R. Woerner
Colorado State University
Completion Date:
May 2014



Consumer preference for beef flavor is not known for beef that differs in production method, breed and post-mortem aging technique. Consumer preference for beef flavor was determined to identify market opportunity for the specific beef types analyzed. With a decline in beef consumption and the highest recorded beef prices, it is important to identify consumer preference for beef flavor. Research has shown that beef’s overall acceptability is known to increase with improved degree of marbling and finishing the animal on a grain-based diet.

A better understanding of beef flavor preference was needed to identify the proportion of consumers who prefer different flavor profiles and/or different classifications of beef. Best-worst scaling and computing shares of preference have been shown to be an effective tool for truly quantifying preference for certain attributes. An understanding of what consumers prefer and in what proportion can help the industry decide what “flavors” are worth pursuing.

The objectives of this study were to determine the consist of preference for beef flavors resulting from various production practices among beef consumers, develop a true ranking for various beef types via best-worst scaling and identify the proportion of preference for various types of beef.


Beef Strip Loins, representing eight different beef product types (treatments) were selected to analyze beef consumers’ preference for beef flavor. The eight treatments were chosen specifically to permit identification and characterization of production related beef flavor differences associated with the effects of: 1) 14-day wet-aged domestic grass-fed beef (DGF); 2) 14-day wet-aged intensely managed Uruguayan grass-finished beef (UGF); 3) 14-day wet-aged USDA Choice (small marbling) (LCH); 4) 14-day wet-aged USDA Select (slight marbling) (SE); 5) 14-day wet-aged USDA Prime (≥ slightly abundant marbling) (PR); 6) 14-day wet-aged upper two-thirds Choice (modest-moderate marbling) (PCH); 7) 14-day wet-aged and 21-day dry-aged upper two-thirds Choice (modest-moderate marbling) (DA) and 8) 14-day wet-aged F-1 Wagyu-Angus cross (≥ slightly abundant marbling) (W).

Untrained consumer sensory panels were conducted at churches and University facilities at Colorado State University, Ft. Collins, California State University, Fresno and The Ohio State University, Columbus. Each panelist (N = 335) was given a ballot, packaged plastic utensils containing a napkin, an expectorant cup, bottled water, bottled apple juice and unsalted crackers to serve as a palate cleanser. Verbal instructions were given prior to the start of each panel. Panelists were instructed to ignore variations in texture and juiciness between samples and to focus only on the flavor attributes for each sample. Panelists were instructed to cleanse their palate between each sample. Consumers were asked to fill out demographic information including: a) gender, b) household size, c) marital status, d) age, e) ethnic origin, f) annual household income, g) education level and h) consumption of beef each week. Consumers were also asked to rank the importance from 1 to 10 (1 = most important and 10 = least important), of ten factors when purchasing beef. These factors include: a) brand name of product, b) breed of animal that produced the product, c) marbling level, d) nutrient content, e) taste/eating experience, f) USDA grade of product, g) visual appearance, h) where and how the animal was raised, i) whether or not the animal received growth promotants and/or antibiotics and j) whether or not the animal was raised exclusively on pasture or fed grain in a feedlot for any period of time.


Overall, F-1 Wagyu x Angus, upper two-thirds Choice, USDA Prime and upper two-thirds Choice dry-aged treatments were consistently preferred in the top half of treatments analyzed, with a likelihood of preference ranging from (13.7% - 20.2%). Consumers in this study preferred F-1 Wagyu x Angus beef most (20.2%) compared to seven other treatments (Table 1). American F-1 Wagyu x Angus has the opportunity to be recognizable by brand and deliver an acceptable eating experience.

It is apparent that there are discrepancies in flavor preference. However, the four samples with the greatest percentage of lipid (F-1 Wagyu x Angus, upper two-thirds Choice, USDA Prime and upper two-thirds Choice dry-aged) result in a greater percentage of preference for flavor than beef types with less percent lipid (USDA Low Choice, USDA Select, domestic grass-fed and Uruguayan grass-fed). Lipid content has a large effect on flavor preference of beef. Across all analyses, grain-fed beef types were likely to be more preferred in flavor than grass-fed treatments.

It is important that beef treatments of preference are marketed clearly with an understandable difference between animal diet, breed, and post-mortem meat aging. Consumers that participated reported that taste and eating experience are most important when making beef purchasing decisions. However, consumers ranked grass-fed vs. grain -fed as the least important beef characteristic that influences their beef purchasing decisions. This clearly illustrates challenges in communication from the supply chain to the end consumer. Consumers should be provided educational resources that offer knowledge about differences in products they purchase and expected flavor attributes. Consumer demographic analysis indicated that targeting Millennials and Generation X as the preferred group for grass-fed beef may be less sustainable for business. Females and Millennials were shown to most dislike Uruguayan grass-fed beef. However, Baby Boomers had the greatest preference for domestic grass-fed beef. Also it appears that Baby Boomers and Generation X may have a more developed taste and preference for USDA upper two-thirds dry-aged beef than Millennials. 


The beef industry should strive to cater to consumer expectations of beef flavor by providing a consistent, satisfactory eating experience. This research concludes the incorporation of Wagyu genetics, breeding cattle with a propensity for higher USDA Quality Grade and grain finishing beef cattle will result in more preferred beef flavor characteristics, improved eating satisfaction and increased market opportunity.


Table 1. Coefficient estimates and shares of preference when comparing all treatments to F-1 Wagyu x Angus

Beef Type1 Econometric Estimates Shares of Preference (%)
W 0
(0.000) 3
[0.000] 4
19.068 2 a
[0.000] 3
20.168 a
PCH -0.222 *
-0.260 *
15.275 b
15.557 b
PR -0.277 *
-0.314 *
14.449 c
14.740 c
DA -0.344 *
-0.384 *
13.521 d
13.741 d
LCH -0.416 *
-0.475 *
12.574 e
12.543 e
SE -0.463 *
-0.530 *
12.001 f
11.872 f
DGF -0.930 *
-1.081 *
7.521 g
6.847 g
UGF -1.227 *
-1.494 *
5.590 h
4.532 h
N individuals 335 335
N Choices 2979 2979
Log likelihood -7475 -7422
Pseudo R2 0.055 0.062
  • abcdefgh Differing letters within the same column imply statistical difference (P < 0.05).
  • 1 Eight beef types (NAMP 180) include: 1) DGF (14-day wet-aged domestic grass-fed beef); 2) UGF (14-day wet-aged Uruguayan grass-finished beef); 3) LCH (14-day wet-aged USDA Choice); 4) SE (14-day wet-aged USDA Select); 5) PR (14- day wet-aged USDA Prime); 6) PCH (14-day wet-aged upper two-thirds Choice); 7) DA (14-day wet-aged and 21-day dry-aged upper two-thirds Choice); and 8) W (14-day wet-aged F-1 Wagyu x Angus cross).
  • 2 Mean of Simulated Shares of Preference of 1,000 observations drawn from a multivariate normal distribution parameterized by using the coefficients and variance-covariance terms estimated by the MNL and RPL models.
  • 3 Numbers in parentheses ( ) are standard errors.
  • 4 Numbers in [ ] are standard deviations.
  • * One asterisk implies that the mean importance of the coefficient estimate is different from W when (P < 0.05).