The knowledge of consumer perception of meat tenderness and taste is essential to forecast a Brazilian quality value-based beef market. This study aimed to verify perception of tender (WBSF < 4.1 kg) from tough (> 4.8 kg) strip loin steak or uncharacteristic (calcium-treated/Ca-IM) and normal (non-calcium/NO-Ca) meat taste by consumers according to gender, age, education and income levels. Steaks were previously classified by shear force measurements as tender or tough. Each consumer was served a paired sample of one tender and of one tough steak, which were either Ca-IM or NO-Ca treated before tenderness classification. Three hundred and eight consumers answered a nine-point intensity (tenderness) and hedonic (taste) scales evaluation questionnaire. Among consumers, 82.2% indicated beef as first choice meat products, 75.3% had beef at least four times a week; 39.3% considered taste as the most important meat attribute and 30.2% considered tenderness; 75.8% were males; 73.6% were 21 to 55 years old; 56.7% had college education; 76.6% had monthly income higher than US $ 435,00. Tender steaks were scored highest (P < 0.01), independently of gender, age and income. However, elderly consumers gave higher scores to tender steaks in comparison to middle age consumers (P < 0.05). In the lower education level, scores given to tender and tough meat did not differ. The higher income level responders assigned lower tenderness scores within tender or tough meat (P = 0.10). Differences in taste were perceived by both genders, and by consumers in every income and education level. Males gave higher scores (dislike less) within Ca-IM steaks. Consumers in the lower education level scored taste higher (like most) within untreated samples. The elderly people could not differentiate taste between the Ca-IM and NO-Ca steaks. These are the first indications that Brazilian consumers perceive tender from tough or uncharacteristic taste of beef, but palatability is evaluated differentially depending on gender, age, education and income level.
gender; age; education; income; calcium