5 December 1997

RESTRICTED FEEDS CUT PIG QUALITY

RESTRICTED feeding regimes for finishing pigs could be reducing meat quality, according to MLC research.

Trials at the MLCs Stotfold pig development unit, Herts, have shown that pigs grown faster during the final finishing stages produce more tender meat.

Pigs offered ad lib feed were compared with pigs restricted by 20% which is common practice on about 40% of UK farms. Ad lib fed pigs grew at 827g a day compared with 681g a day for restricted pigs.

Meat tenderness scores – measured on a scale from 1 to 8 – were 5.3 for ad lib pigs and 4.7 for the restricted pigs.

Evidence of links

Stotfold unit manager Paul Blanchard suggests that there is growing evidence showing lean tissue growth rate and tenderness in meat are linked.

He explains that protein – the building block of lean tissue – is continuously being created and broken down while tough connective tissue levels increase as animals age.

In faster growing pigs which are killed at a younger age there is a lower proportion of connective tissue.

"The rate at which protein is created and broken down – protein turnover – in the muscle is also higher in faster growing pigs.

"Enzymes are responsible for breaking down protein and these are present at higher levels in these pigs," says Dr Blanchard.

He suggests that the higher level of enzymes is carried over into the carcass, allowing the breakdown process to continue which could mean the meat is easier to breakdown when chewed. &#42

Pigs grown faster during the final finishing stages produce more tender meat, research has found.