Comparisons were made of carcass and meat quality characteristics of three groups of wether lambs (n=15/group): a composite breed slaughtered at weaning (EARLY), and at 6-8 months of age (MID) and Merino lambs slaughtered at 12 months of age (LATE). Carcass weight and eye muscle area were measured and meat quality was measured on the Longissimus thoracis (loin). All lambs had similar carcass weights (18.7-19.0 kg; P>0.05). Meat from LATE lambs had higher ultimate pH and intramuscular fat % (P<0.001) than EARLY and MID lambs. Loins from EARLY lambs had lower Chroma (P<0.01), higher eye muscle area (P<0.001) and shear force (P<0.05) and greater percentage of polyunsaturated fatty acids (P<0.001) than loins from MID and LATE lambs. Although statistical differences were observed in meat quality measurements, differences in absolute values suggest that the three production systems resulted in minor variation in meat quality.
New Zealand Journal of Animal Science and Production, Volume 79, Palmerston North, 80-83, 2019
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