ew research has shown improved consumer health benefits can be gained from grain-fed lamb by adding marine algae to the lamb’s diet. NSW Department of Primary Industries senior principal research scientist David Hopkins said levels of health-claimable omega-3 fatty acids in lamb meat increased by almost 300 per cent in a recent study of a natural algae supplement.
“The health benefits from food sources containing omega-3, such as fish, have long been recognized and previous research has showed that pasture-fed lambs produce high levels of beneficial omega-3,” Dr. Hopkins said.
“Now we’ve ramped up the research and found we could enhance the health benefits of meat produced from lambs on grain, silage and hay rations.
“The algae supplement is produced from naturally occurring golden algae which contains high levels of docsahexaenoic (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic (EPA) long chain omega-3 fatty acids.”
The study confirmed that lambs fed the supplement could reliably provide a good source of omega-3.
Dr. Hopkins said that the study explored the effect of the algae supplement on meat quality and production factors which are important to lamb producers and consumers.
“The good news is that the algae didn’t compromise lamb growth rates and carcase outcomes,” he said.
“Meat quality too passed the grade with good color stability, which is a significant factor in meeting marketing requirements as consumers prefer to purchase meat which retains its bright, light-red colour.”
While current results have shown the potential of the algae, further research is needed to explore how to best manage its use on farms.
Future studies to work out how long a feeding period is needed to produce lamb with optimum levels of omega-3 fatty acids, and investigations of other supplements which could achieve a similar health benefit, have been proposed.
Dr. Hopkins and his team are based at the Cowra Agricultural Research and Advisory Station’s Centre for Red Meat and Sheep Development.