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How does barley supplementation in lambs grazing alfalfa affect meat sensory quality and authentication?

  • T. Devincenzi (a1), A. Prunier (a2), K. Meteau (a3) and S. Prache (a1)

Excessive flavour in lamb meat is undesirable for consumers and can prompt purchase resistance. Volatile indoles responsible for off-flavours accumulate more in the fat of lambs on pasture than on grain and are enhanced when lambs graze alfalfa. Here, we investigated whether barley supplementation of lambs grazing alfalfa influences meat sensory quality. Using three groups of 12 male Romane lambs, we compared three feeding regimes: alfalfa grazing (AG), alfalfa grazing + daily supplementation with barley (29 g/kg live weight0.75, AGS) and stall feeding with concentrate and hay (SF). As some of the compounds involved in meat sensory traits may act as dietary biomarkers, we also investigated potential implications for meat authentication. Although barley represented 38% of the diet in AGS lambs, it did not offer any advantage for animal average daily gain or parasitism level. Animal performance, carcass weight and fatness did not differ between feeding regimes. Dorsal fat firmness tended to be greater in AG than AGS and greater in AGS than SF. Skatole and indole concentrations in perirenal and dorsal fat were lower in SF lambs than in AG and AGS lambs (P<0.01 to P<0.0001), but did not differ between AG and AGS lambs. Yellowness, chroma and hue angle of perirenal fat were lower in SF lambs than in AG and AGS lambs (P<0.001), but did not differ between AG and AGS lambs. Absolute value of the mean integral for both perirenal fat and subcutaneous caudal fat (AVMIPF and AVMISC), quantifying the intensity of light absorption by carotenoids in perirenal and subcutaneous caudal fat, respectively, were lower in SF lambs than in AG and AGS lambs (P<0.0001 for both comparisons), but did not differ between AG and AGS lambs. Meat colour was unaffected by the treatment. We confirm that lambs grazing alfalfa accumulate high levels of volatile indoles in their fat, but we show that barley supplementation to lambs grazing alfalfa is not effective in reducing fat volatile indoles concentration and excessive odour/flavour in the meat. We also confirm that both perirenal fat skatole concentration and AVMIPF are of interest for discriminating lambs that grazed alfalfa from lambs that were stall-fed, and we show that they are not effective for discriminating supplemented from non-supplemented grazing lambs.

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