Mom-made favorites” is one of the terminologies with which John Morrell® bills its five-product, fully cooked Convenient Cuisine line. The line includes Beef Meat Loaf with Gravy, Beef Pot Roast with Gravy, 2 Beef Top Sirloin Steaks in Bourbon Sauce, Homestyle Seasoned Pork Roast with Gravy and 2 Boneless Chicken Breasts in Tequila Lime Sauce.

When every mom conditions her offspring to what “good” meat loaf should be, it's tough to compete against her. That seems to be the challenge John Morrell encountered with our panel's critique of its Beef Meat Loaf with Gravy entrée.

The product drew strong scores in the packaging and convenience categories, but panelists downgraded it in the sensory factors area. And the common criticism was that the product wasn't quite what panelists were used to having at home.

  • “It looks too brown. I'm used to red tomato sauce meat loaf,” said one panelist.

  • “The texture is too fine. Good meat loaf should be chunkier,” added another.

  • “It doesn't look at all like something homemade,” said another.

One panelist, however, rated the flavor as “excellent,” the texture as “great” and summarized by saying, “It's hard to please everyone's idea of meat loaf.”

Available nationally, the 24-oz., family-value size product sells for $7.99. The frozen entrée, packaged in a microwaveable tray, must be defrosted before heating. Three preparation methods are listed on the package — microwave, oven and boil in bag.

The BEEF Taste Test panel gave the Beef Meat Loaf with Gravy product a respectable overall score of 7.9 (10-point scale). Panelists lauded the attractiveness and thoroughness of the packaging, its convenience attributes and generous serving size.

Its lowest scores came in the sensory areas of visual presentation, flavor, tenderness, texture and juiciness. The texture of the product, considered by the majority of panelists to be too fine, or “too processed,” as some put it, was the lowest scoring category at 3.5 (5-point scale).

John Morrell is to be commended for reducing the preparation time of meat loaf to just 12-15 minutes of microwave time. And while this product wins on two fronts — packaging and convenience — it stumbles in the all-important sensory factors. At a premium price, consumers deserve a premium-looking and premium-tasting product.