An Australian scientist from the Livestock Industries section of the Commonwealth Scientific & Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) is looking to give the lamb market a new niche, by enriching meat with health-enhancing omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids.

Dr Soressa Kitessa, who has won the Meat and Livestock Australia-sponsored AFFA Science Award for Young People 2001, is embarking on a research programme to discover the optimum time that sheep can be fed with a special supplement to enrich their meat with omega-3.

He explained to Food Navigator: “All ruminants have bacteria in their fore-stomach or ‘rumen’ that break down the more desirable unsaturated fats, such as omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, and change them into saturated fats.”

Dr Kitessa and his colleagues hope to show however that by using a CSIRO-patented procedure for “packaging” unsaturated dietary oils to prevent them being altered in ruminant animals’ fore-guts, lamb meat can be significantly enriched with omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids.

The procedure involves micro-encapsulation of oil droplets in a protein-aldehyde matrix, and if the tests are successful, Dr Kitessa will be searching for an industry partner with whom to conduct large-scale commercial research.

Clinical research by scientists throughout the world has proved that by including omega-3 polyunsaturated oils in the human diet, consumers can lower their blood pressure and the risk of coronary heart disease.