The latest BEEF Taste Test demonstrated that not all convenient beef products are ready for primetime. The panel made up of BEEF editors and staff of the Minnesota Beef Council found Green Circle Organics Parmesan Beef Meatballs and Sauce might be a quick substitute for a home-cooked meal, but the product doesn't come close to competing with mom's meatballs.

Panelists gave the organic heat-and-serve product lackluster ratings in the three individual categories of packaging, convenience and sensory factors. In these three major areas, the product averaged 4.09 (5-point scale).

However, the meatballs earned only a 6.7 (on a 10-point scale) for overall value. That's the lowest overall ranking of the 30 convenience products critiqued thus far.

The panel lamented the product's mealy texture and lack of flavor. Juiciness and visual presentation also received substandard marks, while tenderness earned a respectable rank of 4.2 (5-point scale).

Even the packaging earned only a 3.9, although the panelists rated the preparation instructions and nutritional information as adequate with a pair of 4.5s.

Green Circle Organics might compensate for the product's disappointing sensory appeal by emphasizing its pasture-raised, certified-organic, Wagyu and Angus cattle. The company's Web site at www.greencircle.com says the cattle are “humanely raised” without antibiotics and growth promotants, and on feed free of pesticides herbicides, fungicides and genetically modified organisms.

The Organic Parmesan Beef Meatballs and Sauce are part of the company's new heat-and-serve product line that includes Organic Style Southwestern Style Beef Meatloaf and Organic Italian-Style Beef Pot Roast. Based in Washington, VA, Green Circle Organics markets its fresh and frozen beef line through retailers and restaurants, offering selections such as portion-cut and case-ready steaks, roasts and flavored ground beef.

Organic Parmesan Beef Meatballs and Sauce carries a suggested retail price of $8.99 for a 16-oz. package. The product is available at Whole Foods and Kowalski's stores.

The meatballs received mixed reviews on flavor. Two panelists termed the product as “spicy,” while another called its flavor “good.” A fourth found it lacked flavor.

The serving size of four meatballs was “only enough,” one panelist said. Other panelists suggested serving the product with a side dish. One said the product would be a “great pasta-topper, but not really a stand alone entrée.”

One panelist was thoroughly disappointed with the product. “We need to have good organic products — this is not the one,” the panelist said.

Despite its lack of sensory appeal, the product did stand out in convenience reviews. One panelist commended the product for tasting “almost ‘homemade’ in only five to six minutes.”

Green Circle Organics Organic Parmesan Beef Meatballs and Sauce

Does the package clearly identify the entree? 3.9 Packaging
0-5 point scale
Are the preparation instructions complete? 4.5
Nutrition information 4.5
Easy to prepare 4.6 Convenience
0-5 point scale
Preparation time 4.5
Serving size 4.0
Does it visually present well? 3.6 Sensory Factors
0-5 point scale
Flavor 3.8
Tenderness 4.2
Palatibility 3.8
Is it juicy? 3.6
Overall value — 10-point scale 6.7