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Reducing lamb 'browning' for exports

09 April, 2013

A PhD student from the School of Veterinary and Life Sciences has won a 2013 Science and Innovation Award to further investigate the prevention of lamb meat browning due to oxidation.

Honor Calnan said the $22,000 award, which was sponsored by the Australian Meat Processor Corporation, would support a research study to be done in conjunction with the Sheep CRC.

"Lamb meat currently has a shelf life of only two or three days," Calnan said.

"While the meat is fine, consumers associate browning with a lack of freshness, so retailers are forced to mark down prices. This obviously costs the lamb industry economically.

"We know that discolouration is linked to marbling and high iron content, and vitamin E has shown the ability to reduce its severity, so my study will look at supplementing lamb diets with vitamin E to get the best results."

Calnan said the issue was very relevant to Western Australia, as local lambs had limited access to green grass — naturally high in vitamin E — due to climate.

Also, while previous studies have looked at reducing browning for local sales, hers will be the first to look at longer-aged meat, namely that bound for export markets.

"Meat shipped overseas can travel for upwards of two-months in chilled, vacuum-sealed containers. But once unpacked, it is known to be susceptible to rapid browning," she said.

"We want to improve this to make chilled shipping more desirable for international markets, which will boost the local industry and add to Australia's reputation for great lamb meat quality abroad."

Calnan is the third consecutive Murdoch University student to win the Australian Meat Processor Corporation Award, following Dr Peter McGilchrist in 2011 and Fiona Anderson in 2012.

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