Improving Animal Production & Welfare
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Selective breeding to improve sheep meat quality

Roslin scientists have accurately measured carcass composition on live Scottish Blackface lambs

Black face sheep

Improving meat quality, including taste and tenderness, is critical to the protection and development of markets for sheep meat.

The composition of carcass traits are heritable and they are potentially amenable to improvement through marker-assisted and genomic selection. Measurement of meat quality is constrained by the fact that these parameters can only be measured post-slaughter. 

Using non-invasive X-ray computed tomography (CT), scientists at The Roslin Institute accurately measured carcass composition on live Scottish Blackface lambs. They then conducted genotyping and genome-wide association studies (GWAS) to genetically correlate bone, fat and muscle quality traits. 

Genes were identified that were associated with effects on meat quality traits. Their findings have potential applications in selective breeding for improved meat quality.

Further research is required to determine whether the effects are caused by a single gene or several closely-linked genes.

Original Publication

Matika O et al. (2016) Genome-wide association reveals QTL for growth, bone and in vivo carcass traits as assessed by computed tomography in Scottish Blackface lambs. Genet Sel Evol. 48:11. DOI: 10.1186/s12711-016-0191-3