J Anim Sci. 2004 May;82(5):1401-9.
Preslaughter stress and muscle energy largely determine pork quality at two commercial processing plants.
Hambrecht E, Eissen JJ, Nooijent RI, Ducro BJ, Smits CH, den Hartog LA, Verstegen MW.
The objective of the present experiment was to study physiological changes elicited in response to stress in the immediate preslaughter period and to link them to pork quality characteristics. Crossbred, halothane-free pigs (n = 192) were processed in eight groups (24 pigs per group) on various days at one of two commercial processing plants operating different stunning systems (electrical and CO2 stunning in Plants A and B, respectively). In each group, half the pigs were exposed to either minimal or high preslaughter stress. Blood samples were taken at exsanguination, and lactate, cortisol, and catecholamines, as well as blood pH and temperature, were assessed and linked to various longissimus muscle quality attributes. Additionally, muscle pH and temperature were measured 30 min postmortem, and muscle glycolytic potential was determined 22 h postmortem. At both processing plants, high preslaughter stress resulted in higher (P < 0.05) blood cortisol and lactate; however, the effects of preslaughter stress on catecholamines and blood pH were believed to be biased by the different stunning methods employed at the plants. High preslaughter stress increased (P < 0.05) blood temperature at Plant A but not at Plant B. At both plants, high stress increased (P < 0.05) 30-min muscle temperature and decreased (P < 0.05) 30-min muscle pH. Ultimate pH was increased (P < 0.05) and muscle glycolytic potential was decreased (P < 0.05) by high preslaughter stress. At both plants, high stress resulted in inferior pork quality attributes (P < 0.05), including reflectance, electrical conductivity, filter paper moisture, drip loss, and L* value. The effect of stress was greater on water-holding capacity than on pork color, with drip losses increased by 56%. Of all stress indicators measured at exsanguination, only blood lactate was strongly correlated with pork quality attributes. Regression analyses revealed that blood lactate and glycolytic potential accounted for 52 and 48% of the variation in drip loss and L* value, respectively. In combination with high preslaughter stress, high glycolytic potentials were related to increased drip losses. We conclude that high preslaughter stress leads to impaired pork quality, with high muscle energy levels aggravating the negative effects of preslaughter stress. Monitoring stress level by blood lactate measurement in combination with strategies to control muscle energy present at slaughter may help to improve meat quality.
J Anim Sci. 2005 Feb;83(2):440-8.
Negative effects of stress immediately before slaughter on pork quality are aggravated by suboptimal transport and lairage conditions.
Hambrecht E, Eissen JJ, Newman DJ, Smits CH, den Hartog LA, Verstegen MW.
The objectives of the present experiment were 1) to study the effects of transport conditions and lairage duration on stress level, muscle glycolytic potential, and pork quality; and 2) to investigate whether the negative effects of high stress immediately preslaughter are affected by preceding handling factors (transport and lairage). In a 2 x 2 x 2 factorial design, halothane-free pigs (n = 384) were assigned to either short (50 min) and smooth or long (3 h) and rough transport; long (3 h) or short (<45 min) lairage; and minimal or high preslaughter stress. Pigs were processed in eight groups (48 pigs per group) on various days at a commercial plant. Blood samples were taken at exsanguination to measure plasma cortisol and lactate concentrations. Muscle pH and temperature were measured at 30 and 40 min, respectively, and both were measured at 3 h, postmortem. A LM sample was taken 135 min postmortem to estimate glycogen content and rate of glycolysis. Pork quality attributes were assessed 23 h postmortem. Short transport increased cortisol when followed by short lairage (transport x lairage; P < 0.01). Long transport, but not lairage (P > 0.30), tended to increase (P = 0.06) muscle glycolytic potential. Long transport tended to increase (P = 0.08) electrical conductivity, and decreased a* (P < 0.01) and b* (P < 0.02) values. Decreasing lairage from 3 h to <45 min decreased (P < 0.05) the L* value, but it did not (P > 0.10) affect other pork quality traits. High stress decreased (P < 0.001) muscle glycolytic potential, and increased (P < 0.001) plasma lactate, cortisol, muscle temperature, rate of pH decline, and ultimate pH. Except for decreased (P < 0.001) b* values, pork color was not (P > 0.40) affected by high stress, but water-holding properties (measured by electrical conductivity, filter paper moisture, and drip loss) were impaired (P < 0.001) by high stress. Fiber optic-measured light scattering and Warner-Bratzler shear force were not (P > 0.12) affected by any treatment. Comparisons with the “optimal” handling (short transport, long lairage, and minimal stress) revealed that, with regard to water-holding properties, the negative effects of high stress were aggravated by suboptimal transport and lairage conditions. High stress alone increased electrical conductivity by 56%, whereas high stress in combination with short lairage led to an 88% increase. However, high preslaughter stress contributed most and was the major factor responsible for reductions in pork quality.
J Anim Sci. 2004 Feb;82(2):551-6.
Rapid chilling cannot prevent inferior pork quality caused by high preslaughter stress.
Hambrecht E, Eissen JJ, de Klein WJ, Ducro BJ, Smits CH, Verstegen MW, den Hartog LA.
The present experiment investigated whether increasing chilling rate could improve meat quality in pigs exposed to either minimal or high stress immediately preslaughter. Pigs (n = 192) were offspring of halothane-free lines. On various days, four groups of 48 pigs were processed at a commercial plant. Within each group, half the pigs were exposed to either minimal or high preslaughter stress. Before entering the cooler at 45 min postmortem, carcasses of both minimal and high preslaughter stress treatments were allocated randomly to either conventional (+4 degrees C for 22 h) or rapid (three-phase chilling tunnel: -15, -10, and -1 degrees C for 15, 38, and 38 min, respectively, followed by storage at 4 degrees C until 22 h postmortem) chilling. Temperature and pH were measured in the blood at exsanguination and in the longissimus lumborum (LL) and semimembranosus (SM) muscle at 0.5, 2.5, 4.5, 6.5, and 22 h postmortem. Meat quality attributes (water-holding capacity and objective color measurements) were assessed on the LL. Preslaughter stress level affected pH and temperature in both blood and muscle, with lower (P < 0.001) pH values and higher (P < 0.001) temperatures for pigs exposed to high vs. minimal stress. Rapid chilling led to a faster (P < 0.001) temperature decline regardless of preslaughter stress level. Rapid chilling did not (P > 0.05) influence the rate of pH decline in the LL muscle, but reduced (P = 0.061) pH decline in the SM. Rapid chilling, as opposed to conventional chilling, decreased (P < 0.05) electrical conductivity in the LL, regardless of preslaughter stress; however, it could not compensate for the detrimental effect (P < 0.05) of stress on drip loss, filter paper moisture absorption, and meat color (L* value). Results from the present study indicated that increasing chilling rate is not a suitable method to resolve pork quality problems caused by inadequate preslaughter handling.