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24, chemin de Borde Rouge –Auzeville – CS52627
31326 Castanet Tolosan CEDEX - France

Dernière mise à jour : Mai 2018

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Carcass conformation in lambs. A study of genetic variability among breeds

INRA Prod. Anim., 15(1), 53-66.


1 INRA Station de Recherches sur la Viande, Theix, 63122 Saint Genès Champanelle

2 INRA Station d’Amélioration Génétique des Animaux, BP 27, 31326 Castanet-Tolosan cedex
3 Department of Genetics, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, University of Liège, Sart-Tilman, B43, 4000 Liège, Belgium


Carcass conformation or morphology in sheep is an important trait for breeders, farmers and meat traders. The commercial value of carcasses is partially based on visual assessment of conformation. This trait is often subject to controversy because of its subjectivity and its weak relationship to muscle yield. The aims of this report are to present results on the biological significance of conformation and to evaluate the reliability of conformation assessment for the genetic improvement of butcher’s qualities. This report is a synthesis of three independent studies, each based on the comparison of two genetic types, one with a good conformation and the other with a worse conformation. Conformation reflects muscle morphology, especially muscle deepness which is an important trait when retail products are whole carcasses or joints. Modification of individual muscle thickness is differential according to anatomical location. Conformation improvement increases carcass yield and muscle yield. Muscle to bone ratio is also increased, corresponding to a reduction of bone percentage and sometimes to an increase of muscle percentage. Often, individual muscle weights showed differential repartition on carcass segments. Fatness is not increased. Muscle thickness increase is related to a switch of contractile traits to fast myosin isoforms. These studies have shown that some modifications of biological features are rather related to breed characteristics than to a better conformation.

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