A nationwide study aims to standardise the lamb industry by using hundreds of North West New England taste buds to judge the best cuts, and local community organisations are reaping the rewards.
The Meat Science department of the UNE has been charged with conducting the ongoing study locally, and has so far held 40 fundraiser events, where community groups gather 60 people to taste and score grilled lamb, and in return earn a $1000 donation.
Fundraising coordinator Clare Mathiasen said the industry-funded program is about "understanding the drivers behind the good eating quality of beef and lamb, because understanding what consumers want drives the industry."
While beef already has the Meat Standards Australia (MSA) system in place, the study hopes to use that knowledge to set up a similar grading system with lamb, although beef is still on the taste tester menu, as the research continues to refine the MSA system.
"The MSA program took 20 years for beef, so we are hoping to take that knowledge and apply it to the lamb industry," Ms Mathiasen said.
"The key is consistency, and we are looking at everything, such as genetics, nutrition, transport and handling, and different cuts."
Under "very controlled" conditions, taste testers are asked to score across four metrics - juiciness, tenderness, flavour and overall liking, with all samples cooked for the same amount of time in a specialised double sided grill.
"It is designed to cook medium, although different samples take up the heat differently, and some samples can be more rare while others will come off the grill more well done" Ms Mathiasen said.
"This impacts the four metrics we measure, which are things that a lot of consumers don't actively think about, but do notice."
Community groups that have taken up the offer so far include sporting clubs, rural fire brigades, colleges and private charities, who need to give just one hour of their time to raise $1000
"It is a real privilege to be involved in this research, while also putting money back in to the communities that are producing the meat - especially at the moment."
Any groups in the region looking to host a taste testing fundraiser can contact Clare Mathiasen on 0459140825, or email email@example.com