Industry Partners

Prairie Swine Centre is an affiliate of the University of Saskatchewan

Prairie Swine Centre is grateful for the assistance of the George Morris Centre in developing the economics portion of Pork Insight.

Financial support for the Enterprise Model Project and Pork Insight has been provided by:

Author(s): Fortin, Nadine
Publication Date: January 1, 2002
Reference: Manitoba Pork Council Research News
Country: Canada


Raising pigs in optimal conditions is important to produce the best meat quality. However, producers have to be aware that their efforts will get better results if they are conscious that good care of piglets starts at the foetal level. During foetal growth muscle fibres develop and the total number of fibres is determined. Fibres can be divided into three general categories: red, white and intermediate. A darker muscle has a larger amount of red fibres, while a lighter coloured muscle has more white fibres. It is the number of muscular fibres, rather than their size, that is the primary influence on the growth of the animal. The role of red fibres is more important at birth, but during development and at slaughter weight, white fibres become more important. After slaughter, the pH level of muscle decreases as a result of anaerobic degradation of glycogen in lactic acid. This metabolic activity is more important in white muscles and has a major impact on meat quality. Other factors influencing the level of acidification of the post-mortem muscle are exercise and stresses from pre-slaughter handling and transportation. The rate and extent of the drop in pH levels (becoming more acidic) has an impact on the quality of fresh meat, its shelf life and ability for further processing. A higher proportion of white fibres will reduce the pH. Good proteins make good processed meat – white fibre myosin (myosins are molecular motor proteins) offers superior functional properties to that of red fibre myosin subject to post-mortem metabolic activities that don’t interfere with protein integrity. In order to maintain the quality of protein, pre-slaughter management is essential but other factors are also important, including genetic selection, environment, and perhaps feeding of the gestating sow. Molecular biology also provides some interesting possibilities. There are studies currently being conducted to identify new genetic markers that influence growth and meat yield. In the near future, other research projects will likely concentrate on production of meat with qualities that meet specific requirements such as functional or nutraceutical foods. Scientists have also been able to extend the shelf life of fresh meat by better controlling bacteria. Their new objective is to improve the meat’s resistance to its own degradation by oxidation.

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