Meat Eating Quality

Incorporating meat quality into commercial sheep breeding programmes


Many factors influence lamb meat quality and eating quality. However, a substantial proportion of the differences in texture, juiciness and flavour are attributable to variation between individual animals that is probably genetic in origin. The ability to genetically improve the quality of lamb so far has been difficult without clear in vivo measures and given the high cost of genetic and meat eating quality assessments.  This 2-year project therefore aims to take forward academic research findings by providing an industry scale trial which will establish a number of the essential elements required to incorporate meat eating quality and nutritional value into commercial sheep breeding objectives.  The project will utilise CT scanning to provided a detailed analysis of muscle density measurements which will be examined in relation to the eating quality and nutritional composition of the resulting slaughter lamb.  


  • To identify the extent of genetic variation in eating quality and nutritional quality in a commercial terminal sire line using the Innovis Charollais x Texel as a model
  • To evaluate the genetic and phenotypic relationship between CT muscle density measurements and eating quality in this terminal sire line
  • To evaluate the genetic and phenotypic relationship between nutritional quality of lamb meat and eating quality.
  • To evaluate the genetic relationship of CT traits and eating quality with other traits included in the Innovis terminal sire line selection objectives (.e.g growth and lambing ease).
  • To provide guidance on the incorporation of eating quality into the selection objective

Expected benefits

This applied research aims to develop practical selection protocols that will allow the inclusion of muscle density measurements in a commercial sheep breeding programme. Genetic improvement via the terminal sire is capable of providing a cost effective and permanent means of improving the eating quality of lamb. Hence the widespread adoption of these protocols would be capable influencing meat quality across the industry.

Who is funding the project?

The project is funded by Innovis, Dalehead Foods Ltd and HCC.


The project commenced in July 2011 and will finish in March 2013.

An article on incorporating meat quality into commerical sheep breeding programmes is available here

Final report available here