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The animal fat paradox and meat quality

Webb, E.C., O'Neill, H.A.
Meat science 2008 v.80 no.1 pp. 28-36
livestock and meat industry, livestock, livestock feeding, meat quality, meat carcasses, carcass quality, fatty acid composition, lipid content, dietary fat, sensory properties, nutritive value, essential fatty acids, conjugated linoleic acid, triacylglycerols, phospholipids, feeds
The purpose of this paper is to address some of the paradoxical issues and perceptions regarding animal fats and the related effects on meat quality and consumer perceptions. Meat scientists have been studying carcass characteristics for many years and although the factors that influence the accumulation, distribution and composition of carcass fat in livestock have been extensively researched, the role, value and perceptions of animal fats in meat quality differ significantly in importance between producers, abattoirs, butchers, retailers and consumers. Fat and long-chain fatty acids, whether in adipose tissue or muscle, contribute to important aspects of meat quality and are central to the nutritional and sensory values of meat. In this review the nutritional value of fat, as well as the importance of fat in terms of carcass and meat quality will be highlighted. The 'quality' of meat depends greatly on the socio-demographic backgrounds of the consumer. The aim is to focus on the global importance of fat in the carcass to the producer, processor and consumer. There is currently no clear cut definition for fat quality because the acceptability and perceived quality of fat varies significantly in terms of quantity, colour, consistency and chemical composition in different species of livestock around the world. The association between animal fats and human health is critical and recommendations by health professionals range from excluding fats altogether to a moderate consumption of fats due to their essential role in the body. Recently the emphasis has shifted away from fat quantity to fat quality. Despite these recommendations and years of bad publicity in terms of the adverse affects of animal fats in human health, the livestock industry seems reluctant to shift its focus to fat quality rather than quantity. This approach may adversely affect future meat consumption by consumers who are becoming increasingly critical about the food they eat.