Carcass Quality: Maximize Returns, Minimize Losses

By Jaydee Smith, Swine Production Systems Program Lead at the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA). Key points to watch out for on-farm as well as pre- and post-transportation of the pigs.
calendar icon 29 August 2008
clock icon 3 minute read

At the Ontario Pork Congress in June, the OPC Carcass Committee presented information on avoiding losses and improving returns by ensuring that all hogs marketed yield the best possible carcasses at the plant. The following is a summary.

Planning to maximize revenue and avoid unnecessary losses starts early.

  1. Pre-Transport - Cut Losses Prior To Shipping:
    • Cull early; euthanize poor doers/high risk pigs.
    • Send offsorts to an offsort market instead of losing points on the grid later.
    • Maximize the grading grid: know your target, weigh pigs, compare grids.
    • Don't ship any pigs with suspected broken needles.
    • Walking pens in the weeks before shipping reduces stress during transport and handling between farm and plant.
    • Use genetics and feeding programs to produce quality carcasses; don't "convert feed to fat".

  2. On Farm Actions to Minimize Losses After Slaughter:
    Abscesses - understand the causes to decrease incidence
    • Trim = loss to producer.
    • Use proper injection technique; change needles.
    • Use only sharp equipment for teeth clipping, castration, etc.
    • Reduce tail biting.

    Full Stomachs - avoid whenever possible
    • It does not improve dressing percentage.
    • Animals with full stomachs are harder to move, leading to stress.
    Carcass contamination leads to trim = loss to the producer.
  3. Taking care during transport and at the plant can help avoid unnecessary losses in meat quality:
    • Observe guidelines for stocking density on the truck - avoid crowding in each compartment, don't just consider density for truck as a whole.
    • Consider impacts of temperature, ventilation, cooling, time of day, etc.
    • Some plants require drivers to have TQA.
    • Poor handling leads to stress and injury, which negatively impacts meat quality.
    • Avoid losses from shipping compromised pigs.

Ensuring carcass quality continues at the plant. Plants have guidelines for animal handling, ongoing training of staff, and weekly audits. Industry guidelines are in place to ensure that standards are met.

August 2008
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