Rapid chilling cannot prevent inferior pork quality caused by high preslaughter stress

E. Hambrecht, J.J. Eissen, W.J.H. Klein, B.J. Ducro, C.H.M. Smits, M.W.A. Verstegen, L.A. den Hartog

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26 Citations (Scopus)


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 (+4degreesC for 22 h) or rapid (three-phase chilling tunnel: -15, -10, and -1degreesC for 15, 38, and 38 min, respectively, followed by storage at 4degreesC 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.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)551-556
JournalJournal of Animal Science
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2004


  • meat quality
  • slaughter
  • pigs
  • temperature
  • carcasses

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