Longissmus dorsi muscles were removed from Suffolk cross-breed lambs (aged 4-9 months) and cut into steaks. Lamb steaks were over-wrapped on trays and placed in vacuum pack bags. Bags were divided into 3 groups and flushed with gas mixtures containing 100:0, 90:10 or 80:20/CO(2):N(2). Mother packed lamb bags were stored for 4 days (T2) and 7 days (T3), respectively, in darkness at 4 °C, prior to retail display. The effect of aerobic packaging alone on lamb meat quality was used as the control (T1). Under retail display, all over-wrapped trays were held under refrigerated conditions (4 °C, 616 lx) for up to 8 days. Steaks were assessed for microbial growth, oxidative and colour stability as well as pH every 2 days. Mother-packing in 100:0/CO(2):N(2) was the most effective way of extending the storage life of retail ready lamb prior to display, particularly over longer storage periods. TVCs for T3 lamb meat using all gas compositions remained below 2.0×10(6) CFUs/g meat up until day 6 compared to day 4 in both T1 and T2 lamb. Lipid oxidation in lamb mother-packed for 7 days occurred at a faster comparative rate than discolouration and microbial growth and was the major determinant of shelf-life. However, under simulated retail display in aerobic packages, TBARS values did not increase significantly. There was no significant difference between Hunter 'a' values for T3 lamb meat and the control, but T3 meat mother-packed in 100:0/CO(2):N(2) had higher 'a' values than those of the control and T3 meat packed in other gas compositions. Lamb steaks in T3 previously mother-packed in 100:0/CO(2):N(2) were also significantly (p<0.05) higher than those of T2 on day 0. T3 meat also maintained initial colour values over those of the control.
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