INCREASING the level of lactic acid bacteria in a pigs gut can increase growth, improve health and benefit the characteristics and eating quality of prime carcass cuts such as hams, suggests French research.
In trials to improve the quality of hams produced for leading French processor Fleury Michon, researchers monitored the response of 429 pigs to an in-feed treatment to boost the supply of lactic acid bacteria.
The treament – Bactocel – can be added to home-mixed or liquid feed. Trials showed average daily liveweight gain was increased by more than 2% to 849g/day, finished carcass weight was higher at 66.2kg and lean meat yield was increased by 1% to 59.1kg/carcass.
According to Louis Hurdidge, of the products manufacturer Lallemand, treatment of the cereal element of the pigs ration allows more to be converted into lactic acid for the production of muscle tissue. "In essence, it increases the availability of energy and crude protein in the gut and, therefore, an increase in the supply of microbial protein."
Increases in growth performance are said to recoup feed treatment costs of about £3/t or 45p/finished pig, says the company. Producers receive the equivalent of a premium for carcasses, based on improvement in lean meat yield.
Fleury Michon, one of the largest French processors, will benefit from the improvement in ham quality. Its tests suggest average ham weight, from 800 hams tested, was marginally higher, probably as a result of higher carcass weights. More importantly, meat pH, flavour and texture were better, according to the processor.
There are also major health benefits from using lactic acid treatments, adds Mr Hurdidge. "We already know that lactic acid combats the pathogens responsible for clostridia E coli and have seen large reductions in the production of ammonia from stock fed the treated feed."
Work has already begun to inform UK processors of the French trial results with a view to introducing the technology to the domestic market. *