In this study the effects of barren vs enriched housing conditions of pigs on their behavior during the lairage period (2-h holding period before slaughter), carcass characteristics, postmortem muscle metabolism, and meat quality were studied. The barren housing system was defined by common intensive housing conditions (i.e., with slatted floors and recommended space allowances), whereas the enriched environment incorporated extra space and straw for manipulation. Salivary cortisol concentrations were measured before transport and at the end of the lairage period. During the lairage period the percentage of time spent walking and fighting by the pigs was registered. Carcass characteristics such as weight, meat percentage, and backfat thickness were determined. At 5 min, 45 min, 4 h, and 24 h postmortem, pH, temperature, and lactate concentrations were determined in the longissimus lumborum (LL) and biceps femoris (BF) muscles. Capillarization of the muscle, mean muscle fiber area, and color and drip loss after 2 and 5 d of storage were determined for both muscle types. Pigs from the barren environment had a significantly higher increase in cortisol from farm to slaughter, but no differences in behavior were observed during the lairage period. Carcass characteristics did not differ between pigs from barren and those from enriched housing conditions. Postmortem lactate formation was significantly lower in LL muscles of enriched pigs at 4 and 24 h postmortem. Capillary density and mean muscle fiber area did not differ between the groups of pigs. The percentage of drip loss at 2 and 5 d after storage of LL muscle samples from enriched-housed pigs was significantly lower than that of the barren-housed pigs. Similar tendencies were found for the BF muscle from pigs kept in an enriched environment, but these were not statistically significant. The housing system did not affect meat color. It is concluded that on-farm improvement of animal welfare by environmental enrichment can also lead to beneficial economic effects after slaughter by improving the water-holding capacity of pork.
|Journal||Journal of Animal Science|
|Publication status||Published - 2001|