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Intramuscular fat levels in sheep muscle during growth

McPhee, M.J., Hopkins, D.L. and Pethick, D.W.ORCID: 0000-0002-3255-7677 (2008) Intramuscular fat levels in sheep muscle during growth. Australian Journal of Experimental Agriculture, 48 (7). pp. 904-909.

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A 5 × 4 factorial experiment was designed in which lambs representing five genotypes were slaughtered at four ages (110, 236, 412 and 662 days of age). The genotypes represented were Poll Dorset growth × Border Leicester Merino, Poll Dorset growth × Merino, Poll Dorset muscling × Merino, Merino × Merino and Border Leicester × Merino. Both sexes (ewes and wethers) were represented for each genotype and slaughter age combination. In total, 595 animals were slaughtered and the carcass composition and intramuscular fat were measured. Carcass composition [fat, ash and protein (lean)] was determined by dual energy X-ray absorptiometry, with the intramuscular fat percentage determined using near-infrared spectroscopy following removal and weighing of the entire longissimus thoracis et lumborum (LL) muscle. Analysis revealed that the proportion of intramusular fat in the loin relative to total carcass fat decreases as animals mature, thus indicating that intramusular fat deposition occurs early in the maturation of sheep. Furthermore, as animals became heavier and older the accretion rate of intramuscular fat in the LL muscle slowed down. Both genotype (P < 0.05) and sex (P < 0.001) were found to impact on this pattern, with Border Leicester × Merino animals exhibiting the largest increase in intramuscular fat proportion in the LL muscle (4.92 and 5.50% at 22 months of age for ewes and wethers, respectively). The Poll Dorset growth × Border Leicester Merino animals were found to have the greatest absolute levels of intramuscular fat in the whole LL muscle (80.95 and 97.60 g at maturity for ewes and wethers, respectively). The amount of intramuscular fat significantly increased as the sheep became older and fatter; however, these differences were quantitatively small. As such, finishing prime lambs to high levels of total carcass fatness would have little effect on any eating quality benefits associated with increased intramuscular fat proportion.

Item Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Veterinary and Biomedical Sciences
Publisher: CSIRO Publishing
Copyright: 2008 CSIRO
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