Genotype and age effects on sheep meat production. 3. Meat quality
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 or 4, 8, 14 and 22 months of age). The genotypes represented were Poll Dorsetgrowth × Border Leicester Merino (PDg × BLM), Poll Dorsetgrowth × Merino (PDg × M), Poll Dorsetmuscling × Merino (PDm × M), Merino × Merino (M × M) and Border Leicester × Merino (BL × M). In total, 595 animals were slaughtered and carcass traits, composition and meat quality measured. As the animals grew older, intramuscular fat percentage (IMF) increased in the longissimus (LL) muscle and as the proportion of Border Leicester parentage increased so did the levels of IMF. There was a significant sire breed effect on LL pH at 24 hours after slaughter (pH24), with Merino-sired animals having a higher pH24 than both Poll Dorset and BL-sired animals. A significant dam breed effect was found for pH24 of the semitendinosus (ST) muscle, with lambs born to Merino ewes having a higher pH than those born to BLM ewes. A significant effect of sire estimated breeding value (EBV) for yearling muscling (YEMD) on LL pH was detected indicating an increase in pH as the sire EBV for muscling increased. There was a significant Merino effect for ultimate pH of the ST, with Merino-sired animals having a higher ultimate pH than both Poll Dorset and Border Leicester-sired animals. Sucker lambs had a significantly lower ST pH than older animals. As animal age at slaughter increased, the LL became darker based on L* values. There was a significant increase in a* values as animals became older, with 14 and 22-month-old animals having redder muscle. As LL pH and YEMD EBV increased, a* values decreased. There was a significant interaction between animal age and post mortem aging time such that sucker lambs (4 months old) produced LL with the lowest shear force after 5 days of aging and exhibited the greatest decline in shear force with aging. There was a significant increase in semimembranosus muscle shear force for PDm-sired animals (mean ± s.e., 66.5 ± 1.99 Newtons) compared with other genotypes at 61.4 ± 1.28 Newtons, but this could not be attributed to YEMD.