A MORE specific grading system within Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA) sheepmeat standards is still years away as researchers try to find a simple way to test required measurements similar to the beef industry, MLA says.
MLA Meat Standards Australia (MSA) Operations Manager Hayley Robinson spoke at the Dorper Prime Lamb Day in Roma on Monday and enlightened producers about eating quality.
Currently MSA sheepmeat is either given a pass (eating quality score above 50) or a fail (eating quality score below 50) but it is hoped that eventually it will be given a more specific grading such as five stars.
She said there were still a range of different high perspective formulas such as measuring marbling and ossification which made it difficult to replicate the beef number system in sheepmeat.
She said researchers were looking into probes or lasers that are inserted into the lamb and give readings objectively.
“We just need to validate those...(and) at the moment the time frame would be five years before we get into that point,” she said.
MSA sheepmeat was established after an Australian audit of retail lamb in 1997 found 20 per cent of loins were classed as unacceptably tough.
Since 2000 when MLA created a Sheepmeat Eating Quality (SMEQ) research program over 90,000 consumers have undertaken taste tests of lamb and sheepmeat products.
They give an MSA score out of 100 which is calculated by adding a percentage of the consumer’s scores for each component; Tenderness(20 per cent), Juiciness (10 per cent), Flavour (30 per cent) and Overall liking (40 per cent).
Ms Robinson said consumers were able to figure out good quality over bad and were willing to pay more for better quality which was why it was up to the producer to continue to offer the best products.
One way she said producers could ensure the quality of meat wasn’t lessened once the animal left the property was by ensuring sheep had as much glycogen (muscle energy) stored as possible.
“When an animal is dead that lactic acid builds up and reduces the PH,” she said.
“The right PH in the meat is what makes good meat quality in sheep. We want as much muscle glycogen and as much energy in these sheep when they get to slaughter as possible.
“Things like transport stress, handling stress, change in environment, all of these things deplete muscle glycogen and reduce the chance of high quality lamb.”
She said sufficient nutrition (weight gain of 100g per day in crossbred sheep) was just one way of ensuring animals had enough glycogen stored.
”All you have to do is make sure you don’t stuff it up in the last 14 days,” she said.
“14 days is the minimum time it will take for a sheep to rebuild those muscle glycogen stores.”