Turnips improve lamb taste post-Christmas

Finishing lambs on stubble turnips may provide a solution to the deterioration in UK lamb flavour post Christmas, according to new research.

And with consumer purchasing decisions largely governed by the level and consistency of meat eating quality there is a need to identify production systems delivering quality throughout the grazing system, according to ADAS sheep consultant, Kate Phillips.

Speaking at the British Society of Animal Science conference, Southport, Ms Philips told delegates that meat eating quality was one of the main reasons supermarkets often prefer New Zealand lamb.

“For this reason we decided to investigate the variation in meat quality by diet and date of slaughter” said Ms Phillips. Texel cross Mule lambs were either fed grass or grass silage, stubble turnips or ad lib compound feeds during a six to seven-week finishing period in either November or March. Lambs were weighed regularly until point of sale, aiming to finish at 18-21kg carcass weight and fat class 2/3L.

“Although lambs fed the more expensive compound feed grew faster, reducing average days to slaughter, dressing proportion was highest for lambs fed stubble turnips. However, for the grass-fed and compound-fed lambs there was some deterioration in some quality attributes between November and March,” she said.

When presented to the taste panel at Bristol University, grass and compound-fed lambs scored higher in the level of abnormal flavour which increased in March-finished lambs compared with those finished in November. The overall liking of the meat also decreased for the same lambs in March.

“In terms of overall liking, stubble turnip-fed lambs ranked highest; providing a consistent diet helped deliver a high level and consistency in lamb eating quality throughout the winter months. Later slaughter tended to reduce the assessors overall liking for grass silage and concentrate fed lambs,” said Ms Phillips.

See more