Incorporating lamb eating and nutritional quality into a commercial breeding programme (Presentation)

Student: Eleri Price
Company: Innovis
Academic Supervisor: Prof. Nigel Scollan & Prof. Will Haresign

For the majority of customers, lamb is consumed less than once a month.  Most Welsh lamb is eaten outside of Wales. In order to maintain a thriving sheep industry and its vital contribution to the rural and national economy of the UK, there is a need to increase consumption by improving the eating and nutritional quality of lamb.

This project is an industry scale trial to create commercial sheep breeding objectives, to encourage public demand for lamb. To meet this challenge a collaboration team of 3 sources KESS, Innovis Breeding Sheep and IBERS has been formed.

Genetics can provide a cost effective, permanent means of improving the eating quality of lamb. Genetic variation exists between individual sheep for fatty acid composition and concentrations of zinc and iron in meat. There are only a few measurements available to determine the meat eating quality in the living animal. Muscle density (as determined by computer tomography scanning CT) is one measure that has a relationship with intramuscular fat.

This exciting project aims to create a high/low muscle density trial, to evaluate differences in meat eating and nutritional quality through genetic improvement.

Results thus far indicate that high muscle density progeny lambs have increased lean expressed as higher hot and 48 hour cold carcass weight, killing out percentage and conformation (P <0.05). Low muscle density progeny had improved colour saturation and redness (P<0.05). Although not significant, low muscle density progeny predicted means were higher in IMF content (by 10%); lower with the trait shear force and higher in the majority of meat eating quality traits (texture, juiciness, flavour and overall liking etc.).

This establishes that selection for high muscle density results in increased carcase lean. It has previously been found that selecting for growth and muscling in elite terminal sire production also improves lean. There are few in-vivo measures that influence meat quality; hence initial data analysis seems promising as low muscle density progeny affect many meat quality
parameters. Therefore incorporating CT measured average muscle density as a live measurement or “predictor” of meat quality in breeding programmes would be encouraged. Further research is underway to examine genetic relationships of muscling and eating quality in lamb carcasses. This knowledge would be of benefit for farmers, processors, retailers and consumers.