In the near future the sizzling Sunday roast could also be a major source of health-enhancing polyunsaturated fats, Australian researchers reveal this week. Dr. Soressa Kitessa of the Commonwealth Scientific & Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) Livestock Industries is working on a possible new niche for the lamb industry and healthier lamb meat for consumers. Winner of the Meat and Livestock Australia-sponsored AFFA Science Award for Young People 2001, Dr. Kitessa will be funded to work out the optimum length of time needed to feed sheep with a special supplement to enrich the meat with omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids. Clinical research in Australia and overseas has shown that omega-3 polyunsaturated oils in the human diet help to reduce blood pressure and the risk of coronary heart disease. "All ruminants, including sheep and cattle, have bacteria in their fore-stomach or 'rumen' that break down the more desirable unsaturated fats, such as omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, and change them into saturated fats," says Dr. Kitessa. CSIRO has a patented procedure for "packaging" unsaturated dietary oils to protect them from being altered into the saturated fats in the fore-gut of ruminant animals, which involves micro-encapsulation of oil droplets in a protein-aldehyde matrix. Using this procedure, Dr. Kitessa and his colleagues have already shown that it is possible to significantly enrich lamb meat with omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids derived from fish oils. Dr. Kitessa also suggests that changing the fat profile by removing the sheep from pasture to finish them on omega-3 supplements may have the added benefit of reducing the "grassy" flavour of lamb meat that is not liked by many Asian consumers. If the results prove successful, Dr. Kitessa and his team will submit proposals for large-scale commercial research with an industry partner. The inaugural AFFA Science Awards for Young People are for innovative science projects related to an agriculture, fisheries, food or forestry industry that will benefit the long-term future of the industries identified.