Heifers (n=10) were randomly selected from the slaughter line of a local factory each month for a period of 21 months. Rib steak (sampled at the 10th rib) from the left side of each carcass was taken for analysis. The cattle breeds selected during this study were Friesian, Hereford and Charolais. The mean weight of the left side for all carcasses was 146.6 (S.E.M.= 1.0kg). Graded carcasses selected for sampling during this trial were classified using the EUROP scale and the specific heifer grades chosen were factory grades EO4L and EO4H. Initial Hunter 'a' values (on the day of arrival in the laboratory) of rib steak from heifers finished between November and March (overwintered) were significantly (P<0.001) higher than Hunter 'a' values from heifers finished between April and October (pastured). After storage at 4 °C under simulated retail display conditions for 6 days, the Hunter 'a' values for overwintered samples were also significantly (P<0.001) greater than those for pastured samples. Breed also had an effect on the colour of the meat. After storage for 6 days, Hunter 'a' values of rib steak from Charolais were significantly (P<0.05) higher than either Friesian or Hereford. Pastured heifers had significantly (P<0.05) higher levels of the monounsaturated fatty acid C16.1 in the total lipid fraction of rib steak (neutral and polar) than samples taken from overwintered heifers. Pastured heifers had significantly (P<0.01) higher levels of the polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA) C18.3 in the phospholipid fraction than those from overwintered cattle. However, Hereford had significantly (P<0.05) higher levels of C14.0, C16.1 and C18.0 in the phospholipid fraction than those found in Friesian and Charolais. The level of α-tocopherol in the muscle was not affected by either pasturing/overwintering or breed. However, Continental breeds had significantly (P<0.05) higher levels of α-tocopherol in adipose tissue than Friesian.
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