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Stackyard News May 07

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    English Lambs Improve in Carcase Quality

Building on the consistent performance of recent years, the quality of lambs slaughtered and classified in English abattoirs improved slightly in 2006, with fully 57% meeting the preferred target market specification, reveal the latest annual carcase classification results from the English Beef and Lamb Executive (EBLEX).

photo courtesy of

beltex lambs

MLC classification reports compiled from a representative sample of lambs slaughtered in English abattoirs show 58% of new and 56% of old season lambs classifying ‘R3L or better’ over the year to deliver the market’s preferred combination of conformation and leanness.

Over 80% of English lambs continued to classify ‘R or better’ for conformation in the year while the 73% classifying ‘3 L or leaner’ for fatness was a clear improvement on the 70% recorded in 2005. 

Much of this improvement was due to an extremely welcome increase in the proportion of old season lambs finished in the target fat classes – up from 68% in 2005 to 75% last year.

Almost certainly reflecting improved marketing, with fewer animals retained beyond the ideal slaughter weight and condition. This is supported by the reduction in the average carcase weights of lambs slaughtered in English abattoirs also recorded by MLC – from 20.1kg in 2005 to 19.6kg last year.

English Lamb Carcase Performance 2006 (MLC)


3L or Leaner

R or Better

R3L or Better*

All Lambs




New Season Lambs




Old Season Lambs




* Both leaner and better conformation  

Encouraging though the latest figures may be, they also demonstrate that well over 40% of English lambs continued to fall outside the preferred target specification. More specifically 27% of carcases were too fat  and 19% were of poor conformation.

While better breeding is clearly important in improving conformation, further analysis of the classification data underlines the careful management balance also needed between weight, conformation and finish to maximise the proportion of lambs meeting the target specification. In particular, the figures underline the extent to which conformation improves as lambs put on weight but at the expense of increasing fatness.

The EBLEX Better Returns Programme (BRP) runs courses for farmers to help them better understand market specifications and selection for slaughter techniques. English sheep producers wishing to take part in local events should ring 01953 601655 or visit the Sheep BRP section on the EBLEX website at

link English Beef Carcase Quality Improvement
link Sheep Meat Exports Grow Despite Poor Second Half
link Longtown Primestock Sale

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