New flavour wheel offers beefy opportunities

Wednesday, 12 August, 2020

New flavour wheel offers beefy opportunities

A new flavour wheel could help improve the competitiveness of Australian beef in international markets.

Developed by Dr Heather Smyth, a flavour chemist and sensory scientist, at The University of Queensland (UQ) along with the Australian Agricultural Company (AACo), the flavour wheel is designed to provide product descriptors and to differentiate the different wagyu cuts and marbling grades.

Flavour wheels are commonly used in the wine, seafood, coffee, beer and cocoa industries to describe flavour and sensory properties, but the science is claimed to have been applied to wagyu beef for the first time.

“Westholme’s flavour wheel has many applications and is a significant development for the industry. For example, the flavour wheel will enable exporters and chefs to select Wagyu products based on the specific sensory experience they will provide consumers — including aroma, flavour, texture and after-taste, said Dr Smyth, from the Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation (QAAFI), a UQ research institute.

“AACo wanted accurate and informative tools to describe the unique flavour and sensory properties of Westholme Wagyu, so we developed a language tool — a lexicon — which can be used for marketing and product education,” Dr Smyth said.

It taps into how the ‘terroir’ — the unique environment of the vast, natural grasslands of Northern Australia where Westholme cattle are produced — and other factors such as the animals’ genetics, age, gender, diet, handling and processing impart a unique flavour signature into Westholme beef.

Dr Smyth envisions the flavour science could spearhead geographical indicators such as ‘western Queensland Wagyu’ as a clear mark of provenance and quality comparable to Coffin Bay oysters or King Island cheese.

During blind taste tests of a selection of Westholme and other premium wagyu beef samples, an experienced flavour panel identified nearly 100 words to describe wagyu based on sensory attributes across texture, aroma and flavour. A meat scientist oversaw the cooking process to ensure each sample was grilled to medium with an internal temperature above 60°C.

“We were lacking the technical information, the science, to demonstrate that our Wagyu brand Westholme is distinctly different from other beef brands, which is why we helped develop the flavour wheel,” said AACo’s CEO, Hugh Killen.

“We wanted to be the first in the industry to clearly demonstrate the distinct flavours of home-grown, quality Australian Wagyu and then be able to properly describe these differences.

“There is a lack of understanding and education around Australian Wagyu and this wheel can help change that. We’re extremely passionate about showcasing our product and our point of difference, but also about innovating and driving education in this space.”

Image caption: Chef Trent Robson preparing Westholme_Wagyu for cooking. Image credit: QAAFI.

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