Next up for the dedicated BEEF Taste Test panel is RMH Foods' Quick-N-Easy Beef Pot Roast with Gravy.

This Certified Angus Beef product carries the beef Brand Mark quality seal. It is a fully cooked, heat-and-serve entree. The suggested retail price/24-oz. package is $7.99 or $5.33/lb. It's available in major grocery stores throughout the U.S.

The six-person taste panel gave the product a 7.9 overall ranking (10-point scale). Taste testers lauded the product's flavor and texture but downgraded it for its high sodium level (850 mg./5-oz. serving) and what most considered was too much waste fat.

The product earned its best marks in the sensory categories - a 4.2 (on a 5-point scale) in juiciness, a 4 in visual presentation, a 4 in flavor, a 3.7 in tenderness and a 3.6 for texture.

"Great texture and juiciness, and pretty flavorful. I'd serve this on my dinner table, although it's a little too chewy," writes one tester.

"The product has large amounts of internal fat and waste that should have been trimmed out," writes another tester.

Its lowest marks came in the area of packaging - a 3.3 in package design (on a 5-point scale), a 3.7 for the completeness of its preparation instructions and a 4.3 in the area of nutrition information. It should be noted, however, that RMH Foods was set to debut a new package style in mid September.

"The packaging is attractive but confusing," says one. Others criticized the incompleteness of package information. The suggested cooking time was vague: "Microwave on medium (50% power) 10-15 minutes or until hot." No 800 number was provided for questions, nor was freezing or "freeze by" information provided.

One factor owing to the congested look of the package was that, unlike competitive products, this Quick-N-Easy entree doesn't use a cardboard sleeve. Instead, product information is carried on the plastic cover that is pulled off the tray prior to preparation, which limits available space.

One panelist, however, thought this minimal packaging was a strength in that it was "more environmentally friendly" due to less trash to discard. She also liked that the product did carry on its cover a suggestion for thickening the gravy.

Regarding the convenience aspects, the RMH Foods pot roast garnered a 3.8 in ease of preparation, a 3.4 in preparation time and a 4.3 in serving size.

Other tester thoughts: The product carries only instructions on microwave and oven preparation, so bag boiling is apparently not an option - a negative in most panelists' opinion.

The October taste panel consisted of Ron Eustice and Michelle Torno, RD, of the Minnesota Beef Council (MBC); meat marketing consultant John Story: Conrad Kramme, MBC Dairy Beef Quality Assurance consultant; and BEEF editorial staffers Diana Barto and Joe Roybal.