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Factors influencing the occurrence of high ultimate pH in three muscles of lamb carcasses in Australia

McPhail, N. G., Stark, J. L., Ball, A. J., Warner, R. D.
Animal production science 2014 v.54 no.10 pp. 1853-1859
Merino, autumn, beef, carcass weight, electrical treatment, lamb meat, lambs, muscles, ovine carcasses, pH, quality control, risk, spring, statistical models, storage time, New South Wales
Chilled lamb meat exported from Australia has, on occasions, been rejected by importing countries due to greening, after only 6 weeks of storage time. Greening is known to be more prevalent in high ultimate pH (pHu) beef meat (>5.9). There are few data available for lamb carcasses in Australia on the occurrence of high pHu meat, which may have an impact on the understanding and control of quality and greening during storage. The aim of this project was to determine the prevalence of, and influencing factors for, high pHu meat in a range of muscle types in lamb carcasses in Australia. Muscle pHu data were collected from a total of 1614 carcasses from 78 lots at four lamb processing plants in Victoria and New South Wales in autumn and spring of 2013. The pHu of the knuckle (rectus femoris), rack (longissimus) and blade (infraspinatus) was measured and data on carcass and lot characteristics were recorded. Data were subjected to restricted maximum likelihood and generalised linear mixed model analysis. The mean pHu of the knuckle, rack and shoulder were 6.06, 5.79 and 6.12 respectively, and the main factors influencing muscle pHu and occurrence of dark-cutting were breed, season, electrical stimulation and carcass weight. Merino lambs had a higher pHu in the blade and knuckle than did other breeds (P < 0.05, P < 0.01 respectively). Lambs processed in autumn had a higher predicted pHu in the blade and knuckle and a higher percentage dark-cutting (DC; pHu >6.0) for those muscles, than did those processed in spring (P < 0.05). Carcasses that had been electrically stimulated had a higher %DC and a higher pHu in all three muscles (P < 0.05). Carcass weight had a significant effect on the pHu of all three muscles (P < 0.001), with heavier carcasses having a lower pHu and lower %DC. The pHu of the rack was not a reliable predictor for the pHu in other muscles of the lamb carcass. In conclusion, the high occurrence of DC in the muscles, particularly the blade and knuckle, suggests that these muscles may be at risk for producing greening in the vacuum bag during storage.