New research has revealed that freezing lamb for up to a year has no impact on quality although some discolouration of the meat does occur.

Chill out: freezing lamb doesn’t lower its quality

Research has shown chilled storage improved the quality of meat for up to two weeks, highlighted by a marked increase in tenderness.

If you love your lamb chops, roasts or cutlets then you may be interested in new research about the impact of storage temperatures on meat quality. 

Charles Sturt University Master of Philosophy graduate, Cassius Coombs’ research evaluated lamb that had been chilled, then frozen for periods of up to one year.

“The experiment examined lamb loins which were stored chilled at about 1 to 2°C, for up to eight weeks, then frozen for up to one year at two temperatures, -12 and -18°C,” Mr Coombs said.

“We aimed to develop a threshold for the storage of lamb in chill and frozen form. We measured a number of meat quality parameters including tenderness, juiciness and display colour, along with food safety factors.”

Mr Coombs said loins were chosen as they are the most readily available and the size of the cut ensured they had enough meat for all the analyses so there were no confounding factors. 

“We could’ve done other muscle groups but it would have been outside the scope of the study and would’ve added in a whole other factor on muscle types,” he said. 

The research was carried out through the Graham Centre for Agricultural Innovation in conjunction with the NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) while Mr Coombs was based at the NSW DPI Centre for Red Meat and Sheep Development in Cowra.

“Key findings were chilled storage improved the quality of meat for up to two weeks, highlighted by a marked increase in tenderness. When the meat is chilled or aged, it activates calpains which tenderise the meat. It also promotes some mild oxidation which brings flavor to the product,” Mr Coombs said. 

“However, at longer chilled storage periods, lipid oxidation increased, spoilage microbes proliferated and colour deteriorated more quickly upon display.”

He said they concluded the lamb remained safe and of acceptable eating quality for up to one year frozen storage and two weeks chilled storage was the best ageing duration prior to freezing.

“We found frozen storage up to 52 weeks without significant decreases in quality was possible. The only thing that would decrease with increased frozen storage was colour, especially on thawing there was much faster colour deterioration,” he said. 

Mr Coombs’ research was part of a wider project funded by the Australian Meat Processor Corporation. He was supervised by Graham Centre members, Adjunct Professor David Hopkins and Dr Benjamin Holman from NSW DPI, Cowra, and Centre Director Professor Michael Friend.

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