(WICHITA, Kan.) — In the grocery store, standing at the meat case, is probably the most thought you'll give to any one item on your list.
But deciding which cut, color or flavor started long before the meat ever made it to the store.
"Theres a whole bunch of people behind what you eat," says Janet Bourbon.
Many of them work at Cargill Meat Solutions in north Wichita.
Katie Porter is a food scientist, she works with pork everyday.
"Cooking isn't easy and that's what we're trying to do is we're trying to make it fool proof," says Katie Porter.
At Cargill's pilot plant types of bacon and pork chops are developed before they go into production and into stores.
"We work on some products for over two years to make sure the flavor is right on trend," says Wendie Phelps.
Much of that work takes place in this room. Seasonings cover nearly every square inch and all of them can be used to create different flavors.
"For bacon, it typically has five ingredients but you can add more, you can add additional flavorings or smokes," says Phelps.
Wendie Phelps, another food scientist, is constantly creating new flavor profiles for products sold at grocery store and major fast food chains.
And what she develops is often sold for millions of people to consume.
"This is serious stuff, yeah," says Phelps.
Once Wendie is ready to test a flavor, she moves to Cargill's prep room, kept at a chilly 40 degrees to prevent bacteria growth.
"Every sample that we make we have to taste it to make sure it tastes okay and meets the customers criteria," says Phelps.
Flavor is added to this rack of pork using an injection machine.
Wendie will try different amounts of brine before coming up with one she believes consumers will enjoy eating.
After the meat is injected, its put into a smoker-for more flavor.
Bacon can stay inside for hours.
Once it's pulled, food scientists cut the meat and package it.
The process is done repeatedly to make sure it comes out the same every time.
'If we put on the package that its going to last for 30 days then we test it here in our labs and also by eating it to make sure it really is going to last," says Phelps.
"That's what determines if they're going to come back and purchase the product again," says Porter.
Cargill keeps retail cases inside the plant to observe the meat's color as it ages.
Scientist say consumers purchase meat based on its color.
Bright red and pink typically sells first but
But before a product ever hits the mainstream, it has to go through a consumer taste test. Consumers are served the test food in a red lit room to prevent any bias from the way the food looks. Then, they're asked a series of questions about what they just ate.
After winning approval in dozens of taste tests, the pork faces one more challenge.
Janet Bourbon creates recipes using the new product.
"I have to step away from what I think would be good and kind of think what is going to appeal to that end user," says Janet Bourbon.
She says customers are more likely to buy a product if a recipe is available.
"They're starting points, they're inspirations and then you can take it from there," says Bourbon.
And even once its in stores, tests are done throughout the year to make sure the product is consistent.
Many decisions behind a product so that hopefully shoppers will decide to buy it.