Meat wins over alternative protein products in K-State taste test

Alice Mannette
The Hutchinson News

In a research study conducted by Kansas State University, consumers chose meat products over substitute meat products.  

The study examined three ground beef examples, which had varying fat levels. These examples of meat, along with protein-based beef alternative products, were purchased in a Kansas grocery store.

The three alternative-based products included products with a soy/potato-based protein mixture, a pea-based protein mixture and a soy-based protein mixture.

All the products were formed into quarter-pound patties. After being formed into patties, they were frozen, thawed and then grilled.

According to the K-State report, "Consumer Sensory Evaluation of Plant-Based Ground Beef Alternatives in Comparison to Ground Beef of Various Fat Percentages," the meat products were favored over the plant-based ones, with all three meat products rating higher in overall flavor and liking. A portion of all six products were randomly served to 120 consumers. The samples were evaluated by appearance, juiciness, tenderness, overall flavor, beef flavor and texture.

“The results are pretty stark,” Travis O’Quinn, K-State meat scientist, said in a release. “Our three ground beef products were highly desired by consumers. We didn’t witness many differences among the three fat levels we offered, but when we compared those to the ground beef alternatives, every one of the alternatives had a tendency to fall out (of favorability with consumers).” 

Consumers rated the plant-based alternatives as “extremely dry,” according to O’Quinn, and rated those products “very low” for flavor. In one test, only 18% of the consumers said they would be willing to buy the plant-based ground beef alternative.

Because the plant-based market is continuing to grow, Quinn said tests like these need to be made. According to the report, which was funded by the Kansas Beef Council, consumers should not expect meat-alternatives to taste exactly like meat. 

"This study was done in a scientific fashion," said Dale Blasi, K-State Extension Specialist. "The numbers speak for themselves."

Each subject sat in a cubicle with dim lighting. They each rinsed their palate before each taste test.

"Based on the outcome of this study," Blasi said, "there is no alternative to true beef."

Freshly processed meat for sale at Krehbiel's Specialty Meats in McPherson.