Conference Addresses Turkey Product Quality and Marketing Issues

Three papers presented at this year's Turkey Science and Production Conference in Macclesfield tackled difficult issues in turkey meat marketing and product quality. ThePoultrySite editor, Jackie Linden, selects the highlights.
calendar icon 12 May 2010
clock icon 6 minute read

Light Shed on Colour Defects in Cooked Poultry Meat

Dr Julie Northcutt of Clemson University reported a series of experiments she has conducted with Dr Doug Smith of North Carolina State University in which they looked at colour defects in cooked poultry meat. She explained that colour is an important consideration for consumers and that defects can lead to losses from condemnations, discounting and fewer repeat customers.

She started by outlining the most common colour defect in poultry meat, including bone darkening, grey-black skin, green muscle, bruising (which can cause a range of discolourations) pinkness and red discoloration. She focussed on red discolouration, which is closely associated with bone darkening, she said, but with an intense red or bloody appearance in fully cooked bone-in poultry products. The condition affects 11 per cent of US retail products. The discolouration can be neither cooked out nor turned to a brown colour although certain additives, such as non-fat dry milk and EDTA, can reduce its appearance. It tends to occur in discrete areas, usually at the end of the femur.

From her four experiments, Dr Northcutt concluded that the problem of red discolouration of cooked poultry meat persists and is regarded as a serious defect in the commercial industry. Her experiments succeeded in inducing the red or pink discolouration in laboratory experiments, from which she found that freezing before cooking, cooking to a higher temperature or the addition of citric acid or EDTA were partially successful: they did reduce the redness to some extent.

They were able to recover a redness-causing component from turkey primary spongiosa. From its molecular weight, it is not haemoglobin but rather myoglobin, cytochrome c or a combination of the two.

Dr Northcutt concluded: "More work is necessary to test interventions to identify causative components present in bone and other tissues in an effort to understand and control red discolouration in cooked poultry meat."

In answer to questions from the audience, Dr Northcutt added that she has the impression the problem is increasing because she is receiving more requests to investigate. Also, males seem to be more affected than females.

Extending Shelf Life of Turkeys Products

"There are no easy answers for extending shelf life or reducing or eliminating pathogens on raw turkey meat."
Dr Doug Smith

Dr Northcutt's co-author, Dr Doug Smith reported work he has carried out to improve the shelf life and reduce pathogen contamination of turkey meat. He explained that carcass contamination has been extensively studied, as have various methods to prolong shelf-life and/or reduce pathogens.

He went on to describe his work into the effect of an acid antimicrobial (FreshFx®; Sterifx) on spoilage of raw turkey meat during refrigerated storage. In this test, the product neither reduced Salmonella counts nor extended shelf life of the product, which he suggested may have been due to the extreme conditions applied during the experiment and/or that the buffering capacity of the muscle overcome the bactericidal effects of the acid solution.

Dr Smith concluded: "Based on these results and previous reports, there are no easy answers for extending shelf life or reducing or eliminating pathogens on raw turkey meat."

Marketing Turkey in Challenging Times

"Turkey meat is a simple, healthy food"
Matt Pullen

Turkeys were introduced to the UK in 1540, said Matt Pullen, marketing director for Bernard Matthews Ltd. That company's founder, Bernard Matthews, began his turkey business during the 1950s and sales from both his company and the nation's industry generally reached a peak in the late 1990s, when per-capita consumption reached 6kg per person.

It was around year 2000 that thing started to go wrong, said Mr Pullen, and uptake is now down to just 2.8kg per person in the UK, which compares with 13.1kg in the Irish Republic, 7.9kg in the US, 6.6kg in France, 5.6kg in Italy, 5.0kg in Germany and 4.2kg in Canada. There are a number of reasons for the decline in the UK: Bernard Matthews ceased advertising its products and diversified into other foods, and the much-publicised outbreak of bird flu at the company's farm did not help, he added. Furthermore, many consumers retain the idea of turkey as a Christmas meal, and describe the meat as being dry or lacking in flavour.

Mr Pullen identified a number of opportunities for new turkey products, such as fresh breaded products, cooked meat and sausages. And also on the positive side, turkey meat is the meat with the lowest contents of fat, saturated fat, cholesterol and calories, but with as much protein as beef. It also benefits from being versatile, and can be substituted for other meats in eight out of the nation's ten favourite savoury dishes, he added. And last but not least, it is good value for money.

Bernard Matthews Ltd wants to position turkey meat as a simple, healthy food, an approach that has worked well for the US turkey industry, where 30 per cent of the population eat the meat at least once a week. Turkey fits well with policies to fight obesity, and consumption is growing in households with children. Turkey now even figures on menus at fast-food chains.

Mr Pullen explained that turkey meat also fits perfectly with the UK government's big campaign, 'Change for Life', which is aimed at improving nutrition and lifestyles. New consumers are key to driving consumption, he said, as well as to engage and motivate those who already choose turkey. Advertising will be a vital step in the coming campaign by Bernard Matthews Ltd and the turkey industry in the coming months, he said.

Conference organiser, Dr James Bentley, explained that he had taken a small but significant step to boost the industry by choosing a turkey dish as the focus of the official event dinner!

Further Reading

- You can view our previous article from the Turkey Science and Production Conference 2010 by clicking here.

May 2010
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