Hey 2SS readers!
So today’s post is going to be a bit different, because we are sharing with you the blog post that volunteered to write for our Food Product Development class. We explain the class and the major assignment in the post, so we won’t say too much about it. The post will also be appearing on Canada Beef’s blog, so whether you read it here or there, be sure to check it out! 🙂
Challenges, Triumphs, and Beef
In University, it isn’t very often that students get the opportunity to take the information they learn in class and apply it to a real-world situation while still in their undergrad. This term, however, that is exactly what we got to do as students in Professor Gladys Ylimaki’s Product Development class at Brescia University.
With the class being a relatively new addition to the course offerings as part of the Foods and Nutrition program, none of us really had a clear idea of what exactly we were signing up for when we enrolled in the class. In fact, we didn’t even know that we were going to be working with Canada Beef until the first day of classes! You can imagine our excitement when we discovered that we would be partnering with such a well-known and reputable organization. Most of us, having little experience with product and recipe development, were also a little nervous- you could call it fear of the unknown- but anxious to get started. Little did we know the exciting roller-coaster ride we were about to get on!
In a nut shell, our job was to create recipes that matched already-existing photos given to us by Canada Beef that didn’t have recipes to go with them. There were 14 photos in total, each one showcasing a different cut of beef. Not only did we have to come up with a recipe to match the photo, but we also had to provide a couple variations of our recipe, changing up the sides or using different flavour combinations to show the versatility of each cut.
Sounds pretty simple, right? That’s what we thought, too, until we got started! First we had a lot of learning to do. We had to understand who our target market was and identify their wants and needs. Then we had to research current food trends to find out what is up and coming in the marketplace and food industry. Next we had to learn about the actual process of developing a product, in our case a recipe, such as brainstorming, how to properly test (and re-test!) a product, and how to conduct a proper sensory evaluation.
Phew! Tired yet? And we haven’t even gotten into the kitchen!
After all of this pre-development work, you can be sure that we were all very excited to finally get
into the kitchen to start cooking! This stage, the actual creation of our recipes, was the most fun and yet by far the most challenging aspect of the project. It was also the most rewarding!
Like we said, there were many challenges that presented themselves during this part of the project. Save for a few individuals, most of us had not had extensive experience in the kitchen, and more specifically, the majority had a limited knowledge of beef. Being that beef is a much more complex product than say chicken or fish, there was a much steeper learning curve at the start. Understanding our cut of beef and how to prepare it in a way that brings out its best qualities was
our first hurdle. Some beef needs to be marinated, some doesn’t. Certain cuts can be cooked in five minutes, while others take hours. Once we had determined what our specific cut required, it was time to get experimenting! But we couldn’t just throw on a chef’s hat and start playing around with ingredients. We had to make sure that our recipes followed the guidelines that Canada Beef had set out for us. The recipes had to be healthy, cost-effective, easy to prepare and most importantly – delicious! This had an impact on what we could and couldn’t use in our recipes. We couldn’t go across town to that obscureS ethnic foods market to pick up a vegetable that no one has ever heard of before, nor could be spend $20 buying some expensive spice. Of course, we also had to steer clear of ingredients that contained copious amounts of fat, sugar and salt. Not so simple anymore, is it? We wanted our recipes to be healthy, but still taste good, be simple, yet still interesting, all the while still matching the picture, too!
The actual testing of our recipes was difficult as well. We had to test one method or ingredient, and if that didn’t achieve our desired outcome, try another. Once we found what worked, we had to test it again to make sure that we could consistently produce the same product. Then of course we had to cross test our recipes and have others in the class sample them to make sure they tasted good.
“The biggest difficulty we encountered was ensuring that our brown rice was fully cooked. It took several cooking attempts to realize that we needed to use a rice that would cook fast and absorb the right amount of liquid.” – Kirstie and Jileesa, Un-stuffed Cabbage Rolls
As you can see, the process of developing a recipe is long, tedious, and requires a great amount of trial and error. But no matter how frustrating it sometimes was, we really enjoyed the whole experience. Not only did we learn a lot about cooking with all the different cuts of beef, but this project opened our eyes to its amazing versatility and removed much of the negative stigma that surrounds it. Before this class, many of us thought that beef was less healthy and more expensive than other protein sources, not to mention much more finicky and difficult to work with. Thanks to Canada Beef and this project, we now know that beef can be just as healthy as any other form of protein, can fit into a budget, and is much easier to use than most people think! This project also taught us a lot about recipe development and sensory evaluation, knowledge that we can take with us into our future careers.
This was a great experience from start to finish. We really liked developing – and of course tasting – the recipes, and being behind the scenes of recipe development was very exciting.
“[Creating] a new take on a classic recipe made us re-discover the food all over again!”- Meatloaf
While most assignments that are given in University have very strict guidelines and rules to follow, this project was much more open-ended, with plenty of room for creativity, which was a refreshing change for all of us. It provided us with a unique, real-life experience that doesn’t come around too often during your undergraduate degree. Best of all, this project has become a source of pride for all of us. The recipes that we created are our own, something that brings us much more satisfaction than just a good grade. They are something we can share with everyone and anyone, and give us the opportunity to also share even just a bit of our new-found knowledge.
One thing is for certain, if there’s anything we learned from this experience, it’s that: