The effect of high levels of broiler litter in the diets of sheep on sensory characteristics and composition of fat in mutton was evaluated. Thirty-six South African Mutton Merino wethers weighing ca. 41 kg were randomly allocated to four treatment diets containing 0, 28, 56 or 85% broiler litter. All wethers were slaughtered at a target body mass of 55 kg. Dressing percentage was calculated and the composition of fatty acids in the subcutaneous fat was analysed. An analytical sensory panel evaluated sensory characteristics of carcass samples and loin sample characteristics. High sensory scores (7 out of 10) were obtained for all dietary treatments. Compared to the other treatments, a high inclusion level (85%) of broiler litter in the diet reduced (p < 0.05) the flavour and overall acceptability of sensory samples, decreased concentrations of myristic acid (C 14:0) and margaric acid (C 17:0) in subcutaneous fat and increased linolenic acid (C 18:3) concentrations. It was concluded that the inclusion of broiler litter in diets for sheep at levels of up to 56% should not adversely affect the sensory characteristics of the meat, but higher inclusion levels might have a slight adverse affect on subcutaneous fat composition and sensory characteristics.
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