Pasture-raised lamb is considered the highest-quality sheep meat product while hogget is a downgraded product considered to be of poorer quality. This experiment aimed to investigate the difference in meat quality between sheep slaughtered at 5, 8 and 14 months of age. Objective meat quality was measured on the loin of young Romney rams slaughtered at 5 (n=20), 8 (n=20) and 14 (n=20) months old. The loin meat from 14-month-old sheep was redder (P<0.001), yellower (P<0.001) with higher intramuscular fat (P=0.003) and had a shorter sarcomere length (P<0.001) compared to the meat from lambs slaughtered at 5 and 8 months of age. The peak shear force was highest at 8 months (P<0.001). Meat from sheep slaughtered at 8 months had greater drip loss than those at 5 and 14 months (P<0.01). The results suggest that slaughtering sheep at 14 months could have benefits on eating quality due to an increase in intramuscular fat.
Proceedings of the New Zealand Society of Animal Production, Volume 77, Rotorua, 177-180, 2017
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