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Relationships between subjective and objective assessments of stress at slaughter and meat quality in pigs

, : Relationships between subjective and objective assessments of stress at slaughter and meat quality in pigs. Meat Science 38(2): 329-340

A study was carried out to relate subjective and objective measures of stress at slaughter and meat quality in pigs. Thirteen slaughter plants were visited. The systems used for handling the pigs pre-slaughter and the levels of stress experienced by the animals were subjectively assessed. The sound level immediately before stunning was also measured. Generally, systems that were rated as being most stressful also produced higher levels of sound, probably because of the vocalisations of the pigs. As the size of plant increased, there was a tendency for the level of stress, and the recorded sound level, to increase. This appeared to be because larger plants operated faster and were more likely to use restraining conveyors supplied by races to handle the animals before stunning. The restraint associated with these seems stressful to pigs. Five plants were selected for further study. Two had been assessed as having handling systems that produced a low level of stress in the pigs, one as having a system producing a medium level, and two as having poor systems producing high levels of stress. Blood samples were collected at exsanguination, and meat quality was assessed. As the level of subjectively assessed stress experienced by the pigs increased, so did the average blood levels of lactate and creatine phosphokinase (CPK). There was also a progressive increase in the potential incidence of pale, soft, exudative (PSE) and dark, firm, dry (DFD) meat in the plants using more stressful handling systems. Additionally, there were positive relationships between sound level and lactate and CPK, and sound level and indices of poorer meat quality. Cortisol concentrations were not different in pigs killed in the different systems and probably reflect events earlier in the handling process, such as in transport and lairage, rather than the stress experienced immediately before stunning. The overall conclusion was that subjective assessments of the stress suffered by pigs correlate well with objective measures and that higher stress levels are associated with poorer meat quality.


PMID: 22059669

DOI: 10.1016/0309-1740(94)90121-X

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