Out to tender

September 15, 1995

The latest bulletin from the Institute of Food Research in Norwich is a celebration of the persistence of scientists, this time in trying to find an objective measure of our subjective experiences of the tenderness of meat.

Scientists had tried getting a trained panel to pronounce on the tenderness of a piece of meat - but their verdict differed from the public's 40 per cent of the time. They therefore tried various instruments to measure tenderness - but these produced even more conflicting results. So the researchers tried asking people to define tenderness and found a dazzling array of differing concepts.

Undaunted, they wired up jaws to correlate how much an individual chewed with how tender he or she said that the meat was. This went well but people still disagreed violently with each other. Their verdict: people chew in different ways, depending partly on the arrangement of teeth.

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