Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy
Three experiments were conducted to investigate factors that may influence horse and consumer preference of equine feed products. The first experiment was a two-phase study designed to investigate the impact of oil-based palatants on horse preference when topically applied to a pelleted diet. In Phase One, treatment diets containing six palatants (banana, anise, apple, peppermint, spearmint, and orange) were compared to a control diet (corn oil) in a paired preference test. Phase Two then compared three palatants (anise, apple, and peppermint) to each other. Preference testing was comprised of a 15 second olfaction period followed by a 3 minute consumption period and first diet sniffed, first diet consumed, first action, aversive behaviors, excessive salivation, amount consumed, and number of chews were recorded. Results from Phase One revealed that orange negatively impacted palatability indicated by less consumption when compared to the control (P = 0.02), though there was no impact on chews per gram. No difference between control and treatment diets for first sniff or first consumed was observed when analyzed individually in either Phase One or Two, though there was a moderate positive correlation (ф = 0.39, P = 0.04) between olfaction and consumption during the peppermint and anise comparison. Consumption as the first action was consistent across all trials (P < 0.05). Anise was preferred over apple and peppermint as indicated by higher total consumption (P < 0.05) in Phase Two. The second experiment was designed to compare horse and consumer preferences of two horse treats products. Horses were presented with two different treat products in a paired preference test comprised of separate olfaction and consumption periods. Additionally, consumers evaluated the two different horse treat products separately for purchase intent as well as consumer preference using a Hedonic ranking scale of the sensory attributes. Consumer data were analyzed by comparing 1) the preferences of horse owning participants to non-horse owning participants, and 2) horse owning participants preference for the two different treat products. No difference was observed for first product sniffed, consumed, or finished during the horse preference test. However, moderate positive correlations were observed between first product sniffed and consumed (P = 0.01, ф = 0.40) as well as first product consumed and finished (P < 0.01, ф = 0.48). Consumer testing revealed lower ratings for Product A in size (P = 0.01), texture (P = 0.02), and purchase intent (P = 0.02) from horses owners when compared to non-horse owners. Horse owners rated Product A lower in appearance (P < 0.01), texture (P < 0.01), size (P < 0.01), and purchase intent (P < 0.01) than Product B.The third project investigated the influence of packaging on shelf life stability and horse preference of treats. Three packaging treatments (control, poly, and paper) were examined at five time points over a 12-month period. Treatments were analyzed for moisture, water activity, mold, yeast, pH, and volatile organic acids. Horse preference testing evaluated first treatment sniffed, consumed, and finished as well as number of treats consumed. Moisture content and water activity increased in all treatments (P < 0.01) from month 0 to month 12, with paper packaging providing a greater fluctuation and containing visible mold at month 12 (P < 0.01). No difference was observed for first treatment sniffed, consumed, or finished during preference testing. However a trend (P = 0.09) for the period*treatment interaction was observed for number of treats consumed, with a poly increasing while paper decreased. These data indicate that 1) palatants and packaging material influence horse preference of feed products, and 2) both horse and consumer testing should be considered during product development to maximize acceptance.
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