How to assess fatness and carcase weight in live lambs

Processors set basic market specifications so they can produce meat products that meet their customer demand for consistent portion size, leanness and eating quality.

The most important specifications include:

  • Hot standard carcase weight (HSCW) - determines the range in size of primal and retail cuts.
  • Fat depth (GR measurement mm) - determines both yield and quality. Over-fat carcases require trimming which is costly to the supply chain. Very lean carcases can have inferior eating experience and shelf life.

Fatness of sale lambs can be estimated quite accurately in live lambs. To see how, go to Fat Scoring Lambs and Sheep to assesscarcase weight with reasonable accuracy it is highly recommended that you weigh the lambs live and use the dressing percentage guide. By assessing weight and fat you will be able to estimate carcase weight and target specific market requirements more accurately.

Consumers assess the acceptability and quality of meat by its colour, fatness, tenderness, flavour and juiciness. Today’s consumers prefer to purchase meat with low levels of external fat, but in many cases prefer to eat meat with some intramuscular fat, commonly known as marbling.  To meet consumer demands some markets require carcases to meet additional specifications for eating quality, this is done using Sheep Meat Eating Quality (SMEQ) or MSA Grading. On farm practices can influence the eating quality of sheep meat for further information follow this link.

What is the GR Measurement?

The GR site is located 110mm from the backbone over the 12th rib. It is a measurement of both fat and tissue and is measured in mm. This site is used as a reference point because it is easy to measure on both the live animal (by manual palpation) and the hot carcase (by measure mm) and provides a good indication of the overall fatness of the whole carcase.

How to assess live lambs for slaughter – assessing fat score and calculating dressing percentage