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Pork's eating quality is influenced by the whole food chain

Factors all along the food chain affect the eating quality of pork.

Various groups in Australia work together in the supply chain, addressing some of these factors to ensure that they consistently produce a product that the consumer wants and will purchase again - pork that is tender, juicy and has flavour. There is recognition that different customers have different preferences.

Some of the standard procedures used by producers in the supply chain may be using the same genetics, only using pigs without the halothane gene, and formulating diets to similar specifications.

The processor may use chilling, hanging and moisture infusion procedures to enhance quality. The quality is monitored and the products are branded for consumer recognition. 

Table 1. Factors that have an impact on pork eating quality
Factor Rating Comment
Genetics **
  • Increase marbling (i.e. intramuscular fat, which affects flavour and juiciness) e.g. include some duroc in slaughter pigs (50% duroc is better eating quality than less than 25%).
  • Select against the halothane gene, which is known to be linked with pale soft exudate (PSE) pork.
Sex ***
  • Castrate (surgical or immunologically) males to reduce the risk of taint and to increase marbling.
Nutrition **
  • Be aware of the risks to eating quality caused by taint from particular ingredients and addivitives (fish meal/oil).
  • To reduce risk of PSE pork, feed magnesium (Mg) for five days before slaughter and vitamin E for lower drip loss and longer shelf life.
Housing *
  • Reduce the risk of taint from faeces by keeping pens clean.
Time off feed before slaughter **
  • 6-24 hours.
On-farm handling *
  • Handling may cause stress: check design of handling facilities and do not use electric prodders. Where possible, do not mix pigs.
Transport **
  • Minimise stresses of mixing and handling.
Lairage/pre-slaughter handling **
  • Minimise stresses of mixing and handling.
Stunning *
  • Low risk if done correctly with either electrical or CO2 stunning.
Stimulation **
  • Low voltage electrical stimulation within minutes of slaughter.
Carcase processing:    
  • chilling
****
  • Control to reduce cold shortening.
  • hanging
****
  • Aitchbone hanging improves tenderness.
Product preparation:    
  • ageing
*****
  • Ageing for greater than 2 and up to 7 days improves tenderness.
  • moisture enhancement
*****
  • Major impact on eating quality/improved juiciness and tenderness.
Consumer preparation ******
  • Cook to an end-point temperature between 65 and 71°C, to slight pink colour in centre.

*low risk
*****high-risk/impact on eating quality

This article is adapted, with permission, from the author and Australasian Pig Science Association, from Mike Taverner's Symposium Conclusions, Managing the Eating Quality of Pork, pages 116-117, from Manipulating Pig Production VIII, Proceedings of the Australasian Pig Science Association conference, 2001, Ed PD Cranwell), see the Australasian Pig Science Association website.

References

D'Souza, D (2003) Improving the eating quality of pork - the WA experience. Pork Journal July/August 2003.

Moore, M (2004) Practical ways to improve pork eating quality. From a presentation by D. D'Souza. Pig Industry News, March 2004.

Taverner, M (2004) Ensuring good and consistent pork eating quality. Australian Pork Limited Technical Note.