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Is long-haul shipping affecting quality of lamb exports?

Sheep meat researchers are tackling the problem of what impact long-haul shipping routes have on eating quality, with a new series of consumer trials planned for the United States.

Following feedback from American consumers that Australian lamb has a ‘gamey’ flavour, Murdoch University post-graduate researcher Maddison Corlett is examining whether this is true and the possible causes of this perception.

“We believe it could be due to either nutrition or the ageing of the meat in transit on long-haul shipping routes from Australia to the US,” Ms Corlett said.

“We are in the process of researching whether different feeding regimes, different cuts or different ageing periods are affecting the way US consumers perceive the eating quality of Australian lamb.”

Ms Corlett will examine whether consumers can discern differences between six different cuts of both grass-fed and grain-fed lamb that has been aged in cold-storage for five, 21 or 45 days.

“Research has previously shown that Australian consumers cannot distinguish any difference in terms of eating quality between grass and grain-fed lamb, so it will be interesting to see whether US consumers can discern any differences,” Ms Corlett said.

“Previous research has also shown that ageing does affect tenderness, but in Australia most lamb is consumed within 10 days post slaughter.

“This research is important in addressing the question of what impact transit times have on consumer perceptions of eating quality in a key export market, which may have implications for the lamb supply chain in the future.”

Maddison Corlett

Maddison Corlett

The grass and grain-fed lambs – a group of male lambs from Terminal breeds – were prepared with the assistance of the South Australian Research and Development Institute (SARDI) and processed at JBS Bordertown.

The meat samples have since been aged at 2 degrees Celsius, and then frozen to maintain their condition until the consumer trials are undertaken in the US in June 2017.

Ms Corlett’s research is sponsored by the Cooperative Research Centre for Sheep Industry Innovation (Sheep CRC), through its post-graduate training program, which serves as a research pipeline for future industry leaders.

Although from a city background, Ms Corlett studied Animal Science at Murdoch University which sparked a fascination with research. She has combined this with a love of lamb in undertaking her PhD into the impacts of meat colour and eating quality on consumer perceptions.

“Eating quality research is exciting because it affects everybody and people can really relate to it. Everyone loves discussing how good a piece of lamb can taste and it is great that we can broaden our research to better understand US consumers as well,” she said.

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