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Compounds associated with consumer acceptability of the flavour of lamb meat

Tenderness, sheep meat flavour, overall liking and cooking odour are regarded as important contributors to sheep meat eating quality. For cooking odour, two aromas have often been associated with cooked sheepmeat. The first aroma, known as „mutton‟ flavour, is generally related to an animal‟s age while the second, known as „pastoral‟ flavour, is related to an animal‟s diet.

Mutton flavour, regarded as the characteristic flavour associated with the cooked meat of older animals, becomes more pronounced as the meat is being cooked and has been cited as one of the historical reasons that sheepmeat consumption has been low in some markets. Branched chain fatty acids (BCFAs) are the chemical compounds that are accepted as the main contributors for the aroma and research continues to explore the role of these compounds and their contribution to „mutton‟ odour.

„Pastoral‟ flavour is found with cooking the meat of pasture fed ruminants, and pasture fed animals predominantly represent the majority of the Australian domestic sheep flock, with cereal supplementation usually used in times of drought. This would imply that the pastoral note is already present in Australian sheepmeat with local consumers accustomed to the flavour of the cooked product. 3-Methylindole, also involved with „boar‟ taint in pigs, and, to a lesser extent, p-cresol are the compounds implicated as contributors to „pastoral‟ flavour.

The Co-operative Centre for Sheep Industry Innovation (Sheep CRC) has been conducting research aimed at understanding the links between a range of selected phenotypes and animal genetics and part of this work has included evaluating cooked meat product using consumer sensory panels with Meat Standards Australia protocols. To date, no study has been made which determines what, if any, relationship exists between consumer sensory attributes and the compounds responsible for „pastoral‟ and „mutton‟ flavours in sheepmeat. In this work, 180 sheep fat samples, representing 3 sire types and 2 sites, were selected from a cohort of 770 made available from the Sheep CRC. Three BCFAs as well as p-cresol and 3-methylindole were measured in each sample and statistical analysis used to identify the relationship between chemical content and three consumer sensory attributes. Two BCFAs, 4-methyloctanoic and 4-ethyloctanoic acids, were found to impact on the consumer „Like Smell‟ attribute. A higher consumer acceptance of the grilled meat was found for fat samples that contained lower concentrations of these compounds. No other significant relationship was found between the other attributes and the chemical content. It is recommended that the contribution of these compounds to the variability in acceptance of sheepmeat in Australia undergo further investigation.

A review of „Sheepmeat flavour and the effect of diet on eating quality‟ has been conducted and is included. The review describes flavour perception, influence of various forages and supplements on cooked sheepmeat flavour and acceptability, and the volatiles generated during cooking which are known to be associated with flavour. Condensed tannins are present in some forages and the influence of these on pastoral flavour is discussed. The analytical techniques for detection of the volatiles and other compounds contributing to taste and aroma are presented, including gas chromatography olfactometry. The possible influence of texture and fat content of sheepmeat on the temporal flavour release in the mouth is reviewed. Finally, consumer perspectives of sheepmeat and processing techniques to ameliorate sheepmeat flavour are discussed.

It is recommended that further data should be collected. In particular, the linking of trained taste panel data with consumer data, and with chemical analysis of a greater range of compounds than those reported here is recommended. This would allow the compounds contributing to the unfavourable, and favourable, variations in consumer acceptability in domestic and export markets to be quantified. This would also allow the development of possible strategies for ameliorating any unfavourable flavours in sheepmeat. This would potentially enable the tailoring of sheepmeat and sheepmeat products to specific markets.


Title Size Date published
1.1MB 01/12/2011


Contract No. Title Start date End date Funding type
Compounds associated with consumer acceptability of the flavour of lamb meat
15/06/2011 31/10/2011

This page was last updated on 05/07/2018

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