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Consumer perception of salted butter produced from different feed systems

Prof Kieran Kilcawley, Teagasc Moorepark, led a study on salted butter produced from three different feed systems (outdoor grass, grass/clover and indoor concentrate). These were evaluated by consumers from Ireland, Germany and United States. Analysis was used to identify key aromatic differences

Farming practices in Ireland consist of fresh pasture for the majority of lactation. This results in dairy products that are higher in unsaturated fatty acids and β-carotene, compared to dairy products from cows fed a concentrate-rich diet. β-carotene is responsible for the characteristic yellow colour in butter and, as a precursor for Vitamin A and a powerful antioxidant, has a beneficial impact in the diet. Butter is coveted for its rich sensory attributes, particularly flavour. While butter flavour is mostly influenced by milk fat and added salt, certain volatile aromas are also known to play a key role in the sensory perception of butter flavour. However, it was not known how the cow’s diet influences the concentration of these volatile compounds.

foods Journal

PhD student Emer Garvey and Prof Kieran Kilcawley of the FoodQuality and Sensory Science Department at Teagasc Moorepark, recently published the results of this study in the journal Foods. There was no difference in the overall liking of the butter from the three different feed systems by the consumers from the three countries.

There was no difference in the overall liking of the butter from the three different feed systems by the consumers from the three countries.

However, on specific sensory aspects such as appearance, there were clear cross-cultural differences, most likely influenced by product familiarity. For example, American consumers preferred the appearance and colour of butter produced from an indoor concentrate diet, while Irish and German consumers preferred the colour intensity of the pasture-based butters. 

Irish and German assessors also differed on their flavour assessment, as German assessors perceived the butter from the grass-fed diet to be significantly more sour and milky, while rating the butter from the concentrate diet higher for melt in the mouth. However, assessors and panellists were in agreement that the colour intensity was highest in the butter produced from the grass/clover diet. Trained USA sensory panellists found that grassy flavour was highest in butter from the grass diet and absent in the butter from the concentrate diet, in addition they found that butter from grass/clover diet had a mothball attribute which was absent in the other butters.  Volatile analysis supported differences in sensory perception, as a number of aromatic compounds, such as aldehydes, ketones, acids, and an ester  were statistically different based on the cow’s diet.

Study Conclusion

The authors concluded that while there are cross-cultural differences on the perception of butter from different feed systems, it doesn’t affect the consumer’s overall liking of the product.

This publication was selected for the cover of the December 2020 edition of Foods, with the cover image kindly supplied by Bord Bia. The full text of the publication can be found here: https://www.mdpi.com/2304-8158/9/12/1767