The inconsistency in the eating quality characteristics of meats, predominantly tenderness, is probably the most critical problem faced by the meat industry worldwide. Consumers consider tenderness to be the single most important component of meat quality. An alternative method for increasing meat tenderness may exist in the form of electrical stimulation of the carcass shortly following slaughter. The aim of this research was to study the effect of electrical stimulation on the consumer acceptance of, preference for and consumption intent regarding mutton of the recently introduced class-AB sheep carcasses (carcasses from sheep with one to two permanent incisors) in South Africa. A total of 22 wethers of class-AB, weighing between 45 and 50 kg, was selected from a homogeneous group of Dorpers. Carcasses were divided into two groups, one was electrically stimulated (0.4 amp/h for 45 sec) and the other group not stimulated. Samples of the left M. longissimus thoracis et lumborum of both groups were oven roasted and a consumer panel evaluated the acceptability of the mutton regarding certain sensory characteristics. Three consumer sensory tests, namely the hedonic rating of the acceptability of each sensory attribute, a preference test and a food action rating test, were conducted in sequence. The acceptability of the juiciness, tenderness, flavour and overall acceptability were not significantly influenced by the electrical stimulation of carcasses. Samples from both the electrically stimulated and non-stimulated carcasses were highly acceptable to consumers. No significant differences in preference or percentage cooking losses were obtained. The present results indicate that electrical stimulation of class-AB carcasses did not have a significant influence on the consumer’s acceptance of, nor consumption intent towards the class-AB mutton. This study shows that consumers revealed a positive attitude by declaring their intention to eat samples from both electrically stimulated and non-electrically stimulated carcasses once a week. Moreover, the variation in shear force values of meat samples from the electrically stimulated group was less compared to that of the non-stimulated group, indicating that electrical stimulation can successfully be applied to reduce the variation in tenderness within the class-AB mutton.
"Experientia docet" - Experience is the best teacher