HEALTH BENEFITS: Lamb could be marketed to consumers as a ‘good source’ of beneficial omega 3 fatty acids, iron and zinc based.

Lamb's healthy marketing edge

NEW research shows lamb could be marketed to consumers as a ‘good source’ of beneficial omega 3 fatty acids, iron and zinc. 

Professor Neil Mann from RMIT University, in conjunction with the Cooperative Research Centre for Sheep Industry Innovation (Sheep CRC), analysed INF data drawn from the sheep industry’s Information Nucleus Flock program relating to the nutritional aspects of lamb.

The findings reinforce marketing campaigns conducted by Meat and Livestock Australia which has stressed the nutrition benefits of lamb ​for more than a decade.

“Meat and Livestock Australia supports consumption of 455g/week cooked red meat consistent with the Australian Dietary Guidelines in 100 to 200g (raw weight) portion sizes, 3 to 4 times a week and as part of a healthy, balanced meal,” the MLA website reads.

“Red meat such as beef and lamb is a critical, natural source of iron and zinc, vitamin B12 and omega-3 - essential nutrients needed to keep the body and brain functioning well.”

Prof Mann found that in most instances Australian lamb met the requirements to be classified as ‘low in saturated fat’ and a source of iron, zinc and omega 3. 

Professor Neil Mann from RMIT University says lamb could be marketed to consumers as a ‘good source’ of beneficial omega 3 fatty acids, iron and zinc based.

“Given the positive nutritional aspects of lean lamb in terms of iron, zinc, omega 3 fats and low saturated fat levels, along with its potential to deliver useful levels of Vitamin B12 and other vitamins and minerals, there is great scope for promoting the health aspects of lean lamb regardless of the diet the animals have been fed,” Prof Mann said.

The research revealed that beneficial saturated fats and omega 3 fatty acids were more evident in lambs fed green foliage, but these levels declined as the amount of grain or dry feed in their diet increased.

“However, the variation in omega 3 content in lean lamb is minimal in absolute terms between the longest and shortest grain and/or dry feeding situations in this study, and when lamb is consumed at moderate levels it may make a small but important contribution to our intake of omega 3 fats, with positive effects on human health,” Prof Mann said. 

“Continuing research would be beneficial to observe if iron and zinc levels in lamb varied depending on in feeding regimes, breeding, climatic conditions and slaughter age/weight.” 

The research consolidates earlier international studies which showed that the lean portion of lamb meat has no negative effect on human markers for cardiovascular disease.

However, Prof Mann said human consumption trials were required to quantify the impact of lamb in the diet on a range of human health measures.

“Knowing that lamb can be an important source of key minerals and omega 3 in the human diet, maintenance of optimal concentrations in the lamb meat may play a critical role in the health of many individuals,” he said.