The total lipids of the longissimus dorsi muscle were analyzed from commercial adult Sarda sheep in Sardina taken from local abattoirs, and in the subsequent year from three local farms in the Sassari region that provided some information on the amount and type of supplements fed to the pasture-fed sheep. The complete lipid analysis of sheep meat included the fatty acids from O-acyl and N-acyl lipids, including the trans- and conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) isomers and the alk-1-enyl ethers from the plasmalogenic lipids. This analysis required the use of a combination of acid- and base-catalyzed methylation procedures, the former to quantitate the O-acyl, N-acyl and alkenyl ethers, and the latter to determine the content of CLA isomers and their metabolites. A combination of gas chromatographic and silver-ion separation techniques was necessary to quantitate all of the meat lipid constituents, which included a prior separation of the trans-octadecenoic acids (18:1) and a separation of fatty acid methyl esters and the dimethylacetals (DMAs) from the acyl and alk-1-enyl ethers, respectively. The alk-1-enyl moieties of the DMAs were analyzed as their stable cyclic acetals. In general, about half of the meat lipids were triacylglycerols, even though excess fat was trimmed from the meat. The higher fat content in the meat appears to be related to the older age of these animals. The variation in the trans-18:1 and CLA isomer profiles of the Sarda sheep obtained from the abattoirs was much greater than in the profiles from the sheep from the three selected farms. Higher levels of 10t-18:1, 7t9c-18:2, 9t11c-18:2 and 10t12c-18:2 were observed in the commercial sheep meat, which reflected the poorer quality diets of these sheep compared to those from the three farms, which consistently showed higher levels of 11t-18:1, 9c11t-18:2 and 11t13c-18:2. In the second study, sheep were provided with supplements during the spring and summer grazing season, which contributed to higher levels of 11t-18:1 and 9c11t-18:2. The farm that provided a small amount of supplements during the spring had the better lipid profile at both time periods. The polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA) content was higher in the meat from Sarda sheep from the three farms than in the meat from those sheep obtained from commercial slaughter operations. The plasmalogenic lipid content ranged from 2 to 3% of total lipids, the alk-1-enyl ethers consisted mainly of saturated and monounsaturated moieties, and the trans-18:1 profile was similar to that of the FA. The n-6 (6-8%) and n-3 PUFA (2-3%) contents, the n-6/n-3 ratio (3:1), as well as the saturated fatty acid (SFA) content (42-45%) and the SFA to PUFA ratio (4:1 to 5:1) of the Sarda sheep from the three farms were comparable to sheep meat lipids found in similar commercial operations in Europe. Inclusion of small amounts of supplements for the grazing Sarda sheep resulted in improved quality of sheep meat lipids.
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