Cowra’s Dr David Hopkins addresses second World Sheep Conference

Dr David Hopkins.
Dr David Hopkins.

The challenges of producing bigger, leaner lamb carcases and still meeting consumer expectations were discussed by Senior Principal Research Scientist with NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) Dr David Hopkins, at the recent 2nd World Sheep Conference.

Dr Hopkins was invited to present the keynote paper ‘Australian lamb meat – recent developments and the challenges’ at the Conference held in Nanjing, China.

“Since the 1980’s improved farm practices and increases in genetic gains have increased the average carcase weight of slaughtered lambs,” Dr Hopkins said.

“This has significantly aided Australian lamb exports to regions such as North America and helped to increase the amount of lean meat and decrease fat in lamb retail cuts.

“But it has created a challenge for the industry to utilise the larger carcases and resultant larger cuts, and also to ensure eating quality is not diminished.

“This has reinforced the need for an effective eating quality grading system and thus Meat Standards Australia is further developing the system to provide eating quality of selected cuts.

“At the same time geneticists have been focussing on creating balanced breeding objectives for stud breeders that account for the antagonistic relationship between increased lean and decreased eating quality.”

Dr Hopkins’ presentation outlined this latest work and presented results on a recent large consumer survey which confirmed that one to two person households, which are the dominant size now in Australia, prefer lighter lamb roasts than those traditionally produced.  

“To address this issue a new cut has been developed called the compact shoulder roast and this along with new packaging methods is designed to provide consumers with lamb which meets their needs,” Dr Hopkins said.

New data on the nutritional value of a range of lamb cuts was also presented at the conference which attracted 350 Chinese scientists and also featured scientists from 10 countries.

While in China Dr Hopkins also gave lectures at Nanjing Agricultural University and Shandong Agricultural University (SDAU) attended by more than 200 post-graduate students. These lectures on how to on how to write and publish a scientific paper stem from his role as the Chief Editor of the International journal Meat Science.

As an Adjunct Professor at SDAU Dr Hopkins also met with a number of students to discuss their research programs, give advice on direction and experimental design and delivered two lectures to postgraduate students in the College of Food Science.  The NSW DPI Meat Science team at Cowra supervises a number of Masters students at SDAU and NSW DPI has a Memorandum of Understanding with SDAU for scientific exchange.