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Contribution of Native Pasture to the Sensory Properties of Ragusano Cheese

S. Carpino,1 J. Horne,1 C. Melilli,1 G. Licitra,1,2 D. M. Barbano,3 and P. J. Van Soest4

1- CoRFiLaC, Regione Siciliana, 97100 Ragusa, Italy
2- Dipartimento di Scienze Agronomiche, Agrochimiche e delle Produzioni Animali, Catania University, Via Valdisavoia 5, 95100 Catania, Italy
3- Northeast Dairy Foods Research Center, Department of Food Science, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853
4- Department of Animal Science, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853

Abstract

Ragusano is a Protected Denomination of Origin cheese produced in the Hyblean area of Sicily. Sixteen samples of Ragusano cheese from two different treatments [pasture and total mixed ration (TMR)] were evaluated after 4 and 7 mo of aging. The color of the cheeses produced from milk of cows consuming fresh native pasture plants was much more yellow than cheeses from TMR fed cows (i.e., higher Hunter b value). This was due to transfer of β-carotene and related compounds from the diet and demonstrated that compounds from native pasture plants changed the sensory characteristics of Ragusano cheese. To avoid a “halo” effect in a trained panel, quantitative descriptive analysis sensory evaluation of these cheeses for odor, taste, consistency, and mouth structure, color differences among cheeses were masked. A unique approach in sensory analysis was developed using sunglasses with lenses designed to block light at the specific wavelengths at which panelists would detect differences in color among samples. Testing was conducted every 2-wk period (15-d increments) with two tests per week using 11 trained panelists. All the panelists tasted all the products. Panelists were able to detect significant differences in the sensory characteristics of cheeses produced from milk of cows consuming native pastures versus TMR even when the color difference was masked.

Keywords: pasture, cheese, sensory, color

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D. M. Barbano

Prof. Northeast Dairy Foods Research Center, Department of Food Science, Cornell University /(USA)