Introduction

Sheep meat is produced throughout the world, with areas such as the Middle East and countries such as New Zealand being major producers and consumers. Older animals, termed mutton, are popular for meat in some countries. In other countries, particularly those where most work has been published, carcass weights and ages are lower typically 16- to 20-kg carcass weight and less than one year of age. These lighter carcasses are generally referred to as lamb, although lamb is used as a general term for sheep meat.

Lamb is often described as a fatty meat, so there is great interest in ways to change composition, i.e., reduce fat and increase muscle in the carcass and the joints/cuts that are commonly purchased. Quality characteristics important in lamb include muscle color, fat hardness, and eating quality (tenderness, juiciness, and flavor). These are influenced by factors such as breed, age, and diet and by processing. As with other meat species, carcass and meat quality in lamb can be controlled by altering the various production and processing factors.

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