Montana State University

Sire breed, harvest age, and diet effects on the flavor profile
and consumer acceptance of American Lamb.

Per capita consumption of lamb in the U.S. has been in steady decline from its peak of 6.8 pounds in 1912 to just 0.8 pounds one century later. Further compounding this disadvantage for domestic sheep producers, a large proportion of the lamb consumed in the U.S. is imported from foreign countries. Therefore, it is of upmost importance to identify factors that will both increase the quality of American Lamb and decrease costs of production.
The most recent National Lamb Quality Audit revealed that consumers of American Lamb define quality as being most associated with the flavor and aroma of sheep meat. In order to supply consumers with a consistent product that meets their preferences, it is necessary to understand the factors which affect lamb flavor. The research proposed here will perfoml two wether lamb feeding trials to help identify the effects of sire breed, harvest age, and finishing diet on the sensory characteristics and consumer acceptance of American Lamb.
It has been reported that the concentration of compounds contributing to off-t1avors are influenced by harvest age and finishing diet, while breed has an inconsistent effect across the literature. Unfavorable market conditions may prevent growers from marketing the most desirable lamb from a flavor standpoint. Low market lamb prices may result in a producer selling his/her stock at an older age. In this case, is it possible to ameliorate the potential off-flavors due to age by providing lambs a low-cost diet?
Past research suggests that feeding lambs plant species containing terpenes and condensed tannins (secondary compounds) can enhance the aroma and flavor of cooked meat by reducing compounds associated with off flavors.
Researchers have reported that juniper contains secondary compounds and replacing oat hay with ground juniper did not negatively affect animal perfonnance. However, using a combination of juniper and oat hay increased growth and various carcass quality characteristics while reducing total feedlot costs.
Feeding juniper to lambs may provide a route for producers to increase consumer acceptance of and demand for American Lamb. This research also has the potential to have a profound positive impact on enhancing natural resources while increasing the profitability of domestic lamb production. Moreover, this research will add to the understanding of how lamb quality should be defined in the U.S. and how producers can be properly compensated for delivering a consistent, high quality product to consumers.