A West Australian company converting thousands of tonnes of carrots destined for landfill into animal feed is hoping to produce a new type of lamb with the same marbling as wagyu beef.
- A WA company is hoping to use about 20,000 tonnes of rejected carrots a year as feed for the sheep
- Omega Lamb has spent $3 million in three years studying feed results in lamb
- The lamb will be marketed in Asia and the Middle East
The Omega Lamb Company has patented the feed, which includes carrots, olive oil, grain, hay and the leftover waste from juiced carrots and olives.
WA’s biggest horticultural exporter, the Sumich Group, is a partner in the venture, which relies on recycled organics for 80 per cent of the feed.
Sumich owner Nick Tana said he hoped to use about 20,000 tonnes of rejected carrots a year in the company’s feeding program at Gingin, north of Perth.
Imperfections result in market rejection of between 5 and 50 per cent of their carrot crop.
“That would equate from 20 tonnes up to 400 tonnes, and 400 tonnes — to put it in context — is 20 full semi-trailers every week,” Mr Tana said.
Omega Lamb has spent $3 million in three years studying feed results in lamb called “mottainai”, a Japanese term for regret over the waste of something useful.
Former science and technology teacher Deon Moss and his wife Suzannah Moss-Wright supervised the trial, which is producing eight-month-old lambs weighing a market high of more than 60 kilograms.
“I’ve leant heavily on my science background and the experimentation because in many ways this is a big experiment, right from the outset, not knowing what the sheep would like to eat [and] if they would eat the ration,” Mr Moss said.
“I guess that rigour of keeping records [and] of analysing data has really played into what we do on a daily basis.”
Ms Moss-Wright, who is also a scientist, economist and lawyer, said the company had 1,200 breeding ewes and hoped to begin DNA testing the flock to select lambs which responded best to the energy-rich feed.
The company will track results not just through the feed, but also at the abattoir by looking at carcases and working backwards to determine the individual DNA.
“We’ll get a big database and then I think we’ll start to really crack if there is, in fact, a genetic propensity to marble in sheep that would improve the meat even further,” Ms Moss-Wright said.
“I think we can definitely improve it but that investment in genetics is a three-year program.”
Currently, the company is seeing marbling across all breeds due to the feed.
Tests this year confirmed marble scores of about 37 per cent, equivalent to the second-highest-graded Japanese wagyu beef.
The meat also had high levels of healthy oleic acids, a result of using pregnant ewes for weed control in the olive groves.
“For the last couple of weeks of gestation when they are in vitro, they are going to be getting the olive leaf which is dropping off for harvest and that’s really high in oleic acid,” Ms Moss-Wright said.
“The oleic acid will similarly be in the milk during those first six weeks of the life of the lamb.
“At the moment we’ve got 700 times the oleic acid levels you would normally have in meat, and we can make that even better through the full life cycle of the lamb.
“That is going to add a significant improvement to the meat quality above where we already are, and it’s also utilising the waste that is falling on the ground and is otherwise not being used.”
Omega is marketing the lamb in Asia and the Middle East.
Ms Moss-Wright said early responses were positive, with many chefs surprised at the mild flavour of the highly marbled lamb.
“There is no plan B, so we always get nervous, but I think as time is going on we’ve got the belief that this really is the best lamb in the world,” she said.
“We have so fundamentally transformed the meat eating quality.
“I think no matter which market we go into, there are certain cuts that fit certain markets, but at the end of the day, the cream will always rise to the top.”
Watch this story on ABC TV’s Landline this Sunday at 12:30pm or on iview.