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College of Ag Scholarships Are Now Available!

College of Agriculture scholarships and fellowships are now available!  All undergraduate and graduate students are encouraged to apply at: (please note that Internet Explorer is the preferred browser)The deadline is March 15, 2010.  

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Descriptive Panels in Nutrition, Dietetics & Food Sciences 


Food is an important source for nourishment and enjoyment and needs to meet consumers’ expectations in terms of nutritional quality and flavor. Flavor is a combination of taste and aroma and it is one of the main factors that drive consumer acceptance of foods. Sensory evaluation techniques are used to evaluate the quality of foods in terms of their sensory characteristics.

Consumer tests (one of the most common sensory evaluation techniques) are used to evaluate the degree of liking of a certain products as rated by consumers. Descriptive tests, on the other hand, provide information about the quality of the food in terms of their flavor (or texture) profile by a group of trained individuals. These types of tests usually use a flavor (or texture) lexicon to evaluate the quality of high value added foods. Some of the products that use flavor lexicons, and therefore descriptive analysis, are coffee, tea, whiskey, wine, cheese, and chocolate.

The need of a flavor lexicon to evaluate the flavor quality of fresh meats resulted in the development of a descriptive panel and an associated standardized lexicon. Some of the terms included in the beef lexicon are: oxidized, roast beef, metallic, grassy, sweet, sour, bitter, salty, umami, livery, bloody, astringent, gamy, fatty, lean, browned, musky, barny, and nutty. To develop this lexicon, 15 panelists have met twice a week for the last 6 months in the Department of Nutrition, Dietetics, and Food Sciences, and have been trained to identify and quantify the attributes present in meats. Curtis Maughan is the MS student and sensory coordinator of the project. The project is being funded by the National Cattleman Beef Association and is directed by Dr. Martini and co-directed by Dr. Cornforth and Dr. Ward.

The purpose of developing a flavor lexicon of meat is to create a standardized meat flavor lexicon that will allow the identification of the effects of diet (grass or grain), maturity, and marbling on beef flavor profile. Other applications will include the identification of processing procedures (ageing, marinating) to minimize off-flavors (sour, grassy, gamey) and maintain desirable flavors (savory, umami, salty, brothy). In addition, we expect to related results from the descriptive panel to the ones obtained with consumers and elucidate the characteristics of foods that drive consumers’ acceptance.

This project was designed using a multidisciplinary approach where the quality of the meat, in terms of antioxidant capacity and fatty acid composition will also be quantified and related to the flavor characteristics found in the meat.
Finally, the use of a standardized sensory technique, such as this descriptive panel, will allow meat producers to compare the flavor profiles of their meats within their production line and among other producers.

In addition to the descriptive panel for meat, the Department of Nutrition, Dietetics, and Food Sciences posses a descriptive panel to evaluate the flavor profile of dairy products. Cheese, milk, and whey are the most common products that the panel evaluates. This descriptive panel was created in 2007 and financed by Dairy Management Incorporated. 

The sensory evaluation facilities in the Department of Nutrition, Dietetics, and Food Sciences are available to on-and-off campus community to help with their research projects and products. We offer descriptive analysis of dairy products, meats, and any type of consumer tests.