Honor Calnan, a scientist from the Murdoch University Australia, was awarded the International Meat Secretariat’s science prize for her work on the problem, which has caused shelf-life issues within the Australian sheep meat industry.
Presenting her findings to delegates at the World Meat Congress in Beijing, Calnan said while the issue over browning was "just a matter of visual appearance", it was offputting to consumers and leading to wastage in the sector.
"People prefer to choose the red-coloured meat, and a lot of high-quality lamb meat was having to be discounted or taken off shelf. This has led to Australian retailers only applying a two-day display time to lamb and causes huge economic losses to the industry."
Using a study of nearly 5,000 animals through the supply chain, she identified a number of issues that could help combat the problem.
She found that increased muscling on the animals helped improve colour, leading to meat retaining its red colour up to three days on the shelf.
Introducing a vitamin E supplement also had positive results, giving a further 20 hours of additional shelf-life.
In the processing operation, limiting the meat’s PH values also helped to reduce discolouration, she said.
However, a growing trend for increased intra-muscular fat, or marbling, within the Australian market could cause issues, she added, as the increased fat in the product tended to increase the speed with which meat discoloured. "We need to proceed with caution in that area," she added.