It has long been recognised that tenderness and eating quality are traits more prevalent in White Suffolks than in other breeds. But until now, it has been difficult to collate evidence to prove the fact scientifically.
It has been suggested that premiums could develop for tender quality lamb and it would seem White Suffolks are well positioned to take advantage of that premium.
A new method of testing tenderness using a world-first handheld probe is being developed in Australia by Dr Heinar Schmidt of Germany’s University of Bayreuth.
The probe uses the principles of Raman spectroscopy which analyses how light wave lengths behave when they hit a structure, including meat.
The development is funded by the Australian Meat Processor Corporation in partnership with Meat and Livestock Australia and Charles Sturt University. PhD student Stephanie Fowler is calibrating measurements of the Raman probe measurements with shear force tests. The three year project is due to finish in 2015.
NSW DPI scientist Dr David Hopkins said the probe could revolutionize lamb production generating premiums for tender, juicy lamb.
The laser probe could deliver marbling and fat measurements which could be used by producers and processors to meet market specifications.
The technology is being used in Germany to identify quality traits in pork but in Australia it has potential to measure marbling and fat traits in lamb which impact on tenderness.
The probe could complement MSA grading and genetic improvement programs and assess a sire’s ability to deliver progeny with tender meat.
Meanwhile some prominent White Suffolk breeders are adopting large-scale DNA testing to identify genetics that deliver tenderness and eating quality.
These genetics will produce carcases that will be identified by meat quality discovery programs such as the Raman probe.
“Meat quality is too important to ignore, as consumer choice increases you can’t have your genetics years behind market demand,”
“Meat quality is too important to ignore, as consumer choice increases you can’t have your genetics years behind market demand,” said Australian White Suffolk Association president Murray Long.
Mr Long is one of nine White Suffolk studs participating in commercial scale DNA trials through the Genomics Pilot Project at the Sheep CRC.
“Breeding values for IMF and tenderness will now be considered when selecting ram lamb sires for use across the group”, he said.
“Good scores for eating quality may lead to the selection of an animal that would’t have been chosen for weight fat and muscle alone. Similarly, if an animal is strong across these ASBVs but has poor results for IMF and tenderness it won’t be selected.
This new genomics testing program requires each participant to test at least 10 sires in their young ram drop, resulting in at least 200 young animals being tested for meat eating breeding values. The nominated eight top rams are then used as sires across the member group along with a link sire.
“We want White Suffolks to be front-of-mind when ram buyers are considering which breed of terminal sire they choose”, he said.