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QTL for carcass composition and meat quality traits in the Blackface population

Quantitative trait loci (QTL) were identified for traits related to carcass and meat quality in Scottish Blackface sheep. The population studied was a double backcross between lines of sheep divergently selected for carcass lean content (LEAN and FAT lines), comprising nine half-sib families. Carcass composition (600 lambs) was assessed non-destructively using computerised tomography (CT) scanning and meat quality measurements (initial and final pH of M.semimembranosus, colour, shear force value, carcass weight, lamb flavour, juiciness, tenderness and overall liking) were taken on 300 male lambs. Lambs and their sires were genotyped across candidate regions on chromosomes 1, 2, 3, 5, 14, 18, 20 and 21. QTL analyses were performed using regression interval mapping techniques. In total, nine genome-wise significant and 11 chromosome-wise and suggestive QTL were detected in seven out of eight chromosomes.

Genome-wise significant QTL were mapped for lamb flavour (OAR 1); for muscle densities (OAR 2 and OAR 3); for colour a (redness) (OAR 3); for bone density (OAR 1); for slaughter live weight (OAR 1 and OAR 2) and for the weights of cold and hot carcass (OAR 5). The QTL with the strongest statistical evidence affected the lamb flavour of meat and was on OAR 1, in a region homologous with a porcine SSC 13 QTL identified for pork flavour. This QTL segregated in 4 of the 9 families. This study provides new information on QTL affecting meat quality and carcass composition traits in sheep, which may lead to novel opportunities for genetically improving these traits.

The next step is the verification of these results in independent populations, hence the definition of results that can be used directly in breeding programmes. Because of the nature of the traits, this is more demanding of resources than verication or results for traits such as nematode resistance or growth performance, which can be readily measured on live animals. Meat quality traits generally require slaughter of the animal, hence a carefully designed measurement protocol is required to simultaneously allow verification of results and subequent selection.

If successful, we will be able to breed sheep whose meat better meets the requirements of EU consumers.

Reported by

Roslin Institute
EH25 9PS Midlothian
United Kingdom