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Keywords:

  • fatty acids;
  • infant food;
  • meat quality;
  • nutrition;
  • omega-3

Abstract:  Lamb meat, when used in the weaning diet of children, is presumed to have a lower allergenicity than other forms of red meat. In children with atopic dermatitis and multiple food hypersensitivities, consumption of lamb meat has also resulted in significant clinical improvements in the severity of the eczematous lesions. Lamb meat is also of special interest in infant nutrition because it provides a somewhat unique fatty acid (FA) profile that mirrors what is thought to be optimal for neonatal growth and development. However, very little is known about how the processing of fresh meat (FM) into prepared infant foods influences its FA composition. In this study, we compared the FA profile of FM from suckling lambs with those of homogenized (HO) and lyophilized (LIO) baby foods prepared primarily with lamb meat. The results show that the content of total omega-3 polyunsaturated FAs was the highest in FM (more than 3-fold) compared to commercial baby food, due to largely higher contents of α-linolenic acid (1.5-fold higher), eicosapentaenoic acid (6-fold higher), and docosahexaenoic acid (10-fold higher). Furthermore, arachidonic acid was more than 6-fold higher in FM compared to LIO and HO. Results from this study suggest the possibility of enhancing the FA profile of commercial baby food based on meat by using lamb meat, but care should be taken during processing so that important FAs are not lost.

Practical Application:  In this article, we have documented that meat from the suckling lamb is an interesting and potentially important source of omega-3-FAs, especially some of the long-chain polyunsaturated FAs (LC-PUFAs) that are essential for optimal neonatal growth and development. These results may have special implications to the infant food industry, in that products made using meat from suckling lambs may provide not only exceptional amounts of these FAs, but also other limiting essential nutrients such as iron. This may be especially important in regions of the world, such as Italy, where use of lamb meat as a weaning food is common during infancy.