Date of this Version
To determine visual preference and value for fresh beef steaks differing in marbling level and color, consumers in Chicago and San Francisco (n = 124 per city) evaluated two pairs of steaks in a retail case. Steaks differing in marbling level (Modest/ Moderate vs. Slight) and color (bright, cherry-red vs. dark red) were purchased at retail stores in each city. Consumers selected their preferred steak in each pair, described their selection criteria, and provided the price they were willing to pay for each of the four steaks. There was a difference in visual preference in each city, with most consumers preferring (P < 0.01) low (Slight) over high (Moderate/Modest) marbling; however, more (P < 0.01) consumers in Chicago (86.7%) preferred low marbling than in San Francisco (67.0%). Selection criteria were categorized into five groups: marbling, fat, color, appearance, and palatability. Marbling was mentioned by 65.4% of consumers who preferred high marbling, whereas 64.9% of consumers who preferred low marbling mentioned fat as a selection criterion. Bright, cherry-red color was preferred by a higher (P < 0.01) percentage of consumers in both Chicago and San Francisco (67.6 and 76.5%, respectively). Color was mentioned both by consumers who preferred bright, cherry-red color (64.8%) and those who preferred dark red color (63.9%). All preference groups were willing to pay more for their preferred steak (P < 0.01), but consumers who preferred low marbling were willing to pay more (P < 0.01) for their preferred steak than consumers who preferred high marbling. Consumers who preferred bright, cherry-red color were willing to pay more (P < 0.01) for their preferred steak than consumers who preferred dark red color. Consumers who preferred low marbling seemed to desire lean products, and consumers who preferred high marbling seemed to desire products with high eating quality. In this study, consumers were willing to pay more to purchase their preferred product; however, most consumers preferred low marbling and bright, cherry-red color.