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Food and beverage stories

UTAS delivers healthier roast lamb

Edition 164 PhD student Aaron Flakemore and Associate Professor Aduli Malau-Aduli … healthier sheep and healthier meat. Image courtesy of UTAS

Roast lamb enriched with omega-3 fatty acids? And tasting better than ever?

Before you say “in your dreams" think about some other recent advances by Tasmanian science. Like monitoring oysters’ heart rates or harvesting energy from honey bees.

In fact, a 10-year study by a University of Tasmania team has demonstrated that sheep meat can be healthier if livestock are fed pellets laced with only 5 per cent of an easily available polyunsaturated oil, such as canola oil or rice bran oil.

“The major outcome is that we can look customers in the eye and say, 'Hey, if you buy a piece of meat from this sheep that we have produced, we can guarantee that you will be consuming over 30 milligrams of the long-chain omega-3 per hundred grams of meat,” the team’s leader, Associate Professor Aduli Malau-Aduli, said.

Hobart chef Ian Todd conducted a taste test for the scientists, cooking three samples of lamb: one that had been fed on canola oil, one fed on rice bran oil and one raised on an ordinary diet.

He was surprised by the results.

“They all look very similar when they’re cooked in terms of colour and all that, and very similar in texture,” he told The Mercury.

“But I think the canola lamb tasted better.

“It just had that nicer fat; so it was really interesting.

“I was probably most surprised to see the amount of fat stored on the lamb,” he said.

“The control lamb, I thought, would have less fat store, but it had a lot more, probably twice as much as the other two.

“The two supplement-fed ones coloured up much more nicely to a more beautiful colour and certainly looked nicer in the pan as well.”

Unlike salmon and other fish, sheep do not have naturally occurring omega-3 oils in their meat.

“Omega-3s are really important for health,” Associate Professor Malau-Aduli said.

“They check against coronary disease and arthritis and they’re good for retinal development in kids as well.

“Traditional sources are fish, but we wanted to see if we could help farmers produce sheep that have levels of omega-3s that will actually reach source levels or even better.”

The scientists found that the healthy oils fed to the sheep transferred into the meat, not only infusing it with omega-3 fatty acids but also reducing saturated fats.

While the advantages for consumers are obvious, the sheep get something out of it as well.

“We found that … the sheep were able to grow faster than sheep fed on grass,” Associate Professor Malau-Aduli said.

“We also found that going by the plasma metabolite profile there was nothing detrimental to their health.”

He said farmers should be able to adopt the techniques developed in the UTAS laboratories and to market the resultant healthier omega-3-rich meat.

“It’s healthy, the sheep are in top shape in terms of the welfare of the animals … so it’s something the industry can actually adopt and run with,” Associate Professor Malau-Aduli said.

In another research coup, a UTAS team has resolved a 40-year mystery about what causes brewers to lose thousands of batches of beer every year.

Scientists at the Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture (TIA) discovered that a special combination of fungi occurring on some barley malt interfered with the beer fermentation process.

“For many years brewers were not sure what was causing yeast to clump together too early in the fermentation process and ruin the brew batches,” team member, Dr Mandeep Kaur, said.

“We discovered that this phenomenon … occurs in the brew when the barley grain is carrying certain naturally occurring fungi.”

The TIA team is now working to develop a cost-effective, accurate and rapid DNA test to detect the damaging fungi.

Image courtesy of UTAS. PhD student Aaron Flakemore and Associate Professor Aduli Malau-Aduli … healthier sheep and healthier meat.

2 September 2015, Edition 164

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