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Meat Sci. 2009 Oct;83(2):314-9. doi: 10.1016/j.meatsci.2009.05.018. Epub 2009 Jun 23.

Polyunsaturated fats in meat from Merino, first- and second-cross sheep slaughtered as yearlings.

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Australian Sheep Industry Cooperative Research Centre, Armidale, NSW 2350, Australia; Future Farming Systems Research, Department of Primary Industries, 600 Sneydes Road, Werribee, Vic. 3030, Australia.


This study examined the level of long chain omega-3 and omega-6 polyunsaturated fats, the ratio of polyunsaturated fat to saturated fat (PUFA/SFA) and the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 (n-6/n-3) fat in sheep grown under grazing conditions in Australia. The sheep genotypes used were Poll Dorset(growth)×Border Leicester Merino (PDg×BLM), Poll Dorset(growth)×Merino (PDg×M), Poll Dorset(muscling)×Merino (PDm×M), Border Leicester×Merino (BL×M) and Merino×Merino (M×M). Loin muscles (Longissimus lumborum) collected from 40 ewe and wether sheep slaughtered at 14months of age were processed for fatty acid determination. After frozen storage, 20g samples were minced and a 7g homogenate was processed for muscle lipid extraction using a chloroform:methanol (2:1) procedure. There was an increase in PUFA/SFA as the proportion of Merino genetics increased in the progeny (second-cross<first-cross<Merino), but this was not shown in the n-6/n-3 ratio. The PUFA/SFA trend appeared to be associated with an increase in the level of total polyunsaturated fats, but not a decrease in the level of total saturated fats. The results demonstrate that there is a need to improve the PUFA/SFA content in first- and second-cross animals which are mainly used for meat production in Australia so as to maintain the healthy lipids in meat. Nutritional manipulation through feeding systems or selection of sires for greater heritability of omega-3 fat deposition may be suitable pathways to elevate the ratio of polyunsaturated fatty acids, and in particular omega-3.

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