Weeds may be the bane of your life and the scourge of your lawn, but a new study suggests they could help to produce healthier lamb meat.

Nutrition researchers at the University of Reading say that giving sheep and lambs a more varied diet produces lamb meat with more polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA), including Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids, which are considered healthy for humans.

In a study published in Animal, the team conducted two experiments to assess the profile of fatty acids found in six common plants. The first test looked at how these plants affect the amount of PUFA available to lambs after simulated digestion. The second, which involved lambs grazing on pasture which included the six plants, assessed the content of the ‘healthier’ fatty acids in lamb meat.

Dr Kirsty Kliem from the University of Reading, who was lead author of the paper, said:

“This study is the first to focus on common British plants that are often found growing wild in meadows and biodiverse pastures. The results were really encouraging as we saw that by including these plants in pasture consumed by lambs, there were more ‘healthy’ fatty acids appearing in the lamb meat.

Top of the revised menu for the lambs is the common British weed selfheal, Prunella vulgaris, which usually grows unwanted and unnoticed in gardens and on grass verges across the UK.

The lab assessment showed that birdsfoot trefoil and selfheal had the greatest potential to increase the amount of ’healthier’ polyunsaturated fatty acids, including Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids, absorbed by the animal.


For the full press release, click here.