2014-12-01   facebooktwitterrss

Reduce Waste and Increase Taste in UK Lamb

Morrisons and SRUC Join Forces to Reduce Waste and Increase Taste in UK Lamb Production.

Tasting panels and the latest computerised scanning techniques are to be used in a research project between Morrisons and SRUC aimed at improving the eating quality and production of UK lamb.

Farm Images

photo: Farm Images

With additional funding from Innovate UK (formerly the Government’s Technology Strategy Board) the collaborative project will use trained human taste buds and CT Scanning of live sheep and carcases to identify the type of animals which will deliver a tastier product, give greater consumer satisfaction but leave less waste.

David Evans from Morrisons believes the project will have a significant impact on the future of the industry. The key lies in differentiating between the wasteful, subcutaneous fat, lying under the skin and the intramuscular fat (IMF), stored between the muscle fibres, that is linked to meat taste.

“This project will improve lamb eating quality, through optimising the laying down of intramuscular fat and reducing the rest,” he says. “Optimum IMF will improve taste and eating quality, while a reduction in the amount of carcass fat laid down will improve feed conversion efficiency, reduce the time it takes lambs to reach maturity and cut trimmed waste, for both butchers and consumers.”

SRUC has long established expertise in the use of non-invasive imaging techniques that create virtual slices of an animal on a computer screen without harming it. Leading researcher Professor Lutz Bunger explains the project will use technology, like the CT scanning more familiar in hospitals and Near Infrared spectroscopy (NIR) in innovative ways.

“Thousands of vacuum packed cuts of lambs will be scanned using multi-object CT and automated image analysis to check several samples at once. NIR will be used to predict new genetic traits linked to meat quality that will be valuable information for sheep breeders. Both sets of results will be combined with more conventionally measured carcase traits routinely used in meat plants.”

According to Lutz Bunger the project is also ground breaking in other ways. In what is a UK sheep breeding first it will enable the use of EBVs in commercial, cross-bred sheep.

“About 70% of all UK slaughter lambs are cross-bred”, he says. “This approach, which uses an analysis of an animal’s genetic make up to estimate its breeding value has previously only been available to inform selection decisions in purebred, pedigree flocks.

His colleague, SRUC Researcher Dr Nicola Lambe says:
“Initially we will use taste panels and other proven tests to investigate the relationship between the new traits and meat eating quality. This will help us identify a ‘window of consumer acceptability’ and the optimum intra-muscular fat levels in lamb linked to taste. In the larger part of the project we will then develop ways to measure these traits efficiently and help breeders use genetic selection for higher taste and lower waste.”

Morrison’s will be first to benefit from a new tastier lamb product at an affordable price. This technique can then be applied in other species of meat-producing animals, such as pigs.


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